Zarina Hashmi known professionally as Zarina, was an Indian-American artist and printmaker based in New York City. Her work spans drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. Associated with the Minimalist movement, her work utilized abstract and geometric forms in order to evoke a spiritual reaction from the viewer.
Zarina earned a degree in mathematics, BS (honors) from the Aligarh Muslim University in 1958. She then studied variety of printmaking methods in Thailand, and at Atelier 17 studio in Paris, apprenticing to Stanley William Hayter, and with printmaker Tōshi Yoshida in Tokyo, Japan. She lived and worked in New York City.
During the 1980s, Zarina served as a board member of the New York Feminist Art Institute and an instructor of papermaking workshops at the affiliated Women’s Center for Learning. While on the editorial board of the feminist art journal Heresies, she contributed to the “Third World Women” issue.
Zarina’s art was informed by her identity as a Muslim-born Indian woman, as well as a lifetime spent traveling from place to place. She used visual elements from Islamic religious decoration, especially the regular geometry commonly found in Islamic architecture. The abstract and spare geometric style of her early works has been compared to that of minimalists such as Sol LeWitt.
Zarina’s work explored the concept of home as a fluid, abstract space that transcends physicality or location. Her work often featured symbols that call to mind such ideas as movement, diaspora, exile. For example, woodblock print Paper Like Skin depicts a thin black line meandering upward across a white background, dividing the page from the bottom right corner to the top left corner. The line possesses a cartographic quality that, in its winding and angular division of the page, suggests a border between two places, or perhaps a topographical chart of a journey that is yet unfinished.
Zarina died in London from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on 25 April 2020.
Vikash Kalra is a self-taught artist & writer based in New Delhi whose work has been exhibited across India and is held in several private and corporate collections.