Jhaveri Contemporary's display is devoted to six women of South Asian heritage who engage the many languages of abstraction. Simryn Gill, Sabah Husain, Amina Ahmed, Lubna Chowdhary, Rana Begum, and Yamini Nayar share an interest in process and materiality, in making primarily by hand. The works chosen for Frieze collectively explore pattern, perception, and colour, however the underlying influences and references are wide- ranging: from Islamic geometry and East Asian Ink Painting to Western Modernism and more specific art historical allusions.
Simryn Gill (b.1959, Singapore) is represented by a group of collages titled 'Egg Drawings', a series she began in 2016. Gill's 'drawings' refer to the widespread misconception that whoever can draw a perfect circle is destined to become a great artist. What began as an exercise in perfection — an attempt at tearing papers into faultless circles — ended in failure. Gill made multiple ovoid forms, which she proceeded to paste onto ledger paper, overlaying primordial, organic shapes onto a geometric grid. These drawings are also a nod to the collages of Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Broodthaers, known for their enigmatic and humorous approach to art making.
The presentation includes rare works from the late 1980s by Sabah Husain (b.1959, Peshawar, Pakistan). While at the Kyoto University of Fine Arts and Music, Husain started a series of works inspired by classical Indian music. Her improvisational drawings are made on large sheets of paper with Japanese Kozo, Mitsumata, and Gampi fibres. Onto these she makes calligraphic marks, guided by the rhythms and reverberations of ragas, the Sumi ink instantly staining the paper.
Ornament and abstraction come together in the works of Amina Ahmed (b.1964, Busembatia, Uganda). The origins of Ahmed's interest in geometry, symmetry, pattern, and repetition can be attributed to sustained encounters with Islamic art, architecture, and ritual practice. Ahmed grinds her pigments in the traditional manner and uses handmade papers like mulberry and wasli, typically used in miniature paintings. Ahmed is also an educator and an activist, and issues concerning human rights and gender equality often inform her projects.
Lubna Chowdhary's (b.1964, Dodoba,Tanzania) practice returns geometry to a craft it was associated with historically—ceramic tile-work with repetitive geometric patterns that embellished the interiors of Islamic architecture. Her approach, however, is driven by intuition and whimsy, opening the language of geometry beyond ornament and pattern to the aesthetics of the modern city. Lubna's tableaux resemble the skylines of futuristic cities, offering a utopian vision in which cross-cultural confluence and fertilization are celebrated.
Rana Begum's (b. 1977, Sylhet, Bangladesh) practice blurs the boundary between sculpture, painting, and architecture, and has a transformative, sensory, and immersive quality. Included in this display is a group of delicate watercolours made while the artist was self-isolating in lockdown. These works draw from her well-known, wall-mounted metal sculptures, where colour spills from the rigid boundaries of individual bars, mixing with natural light to create additional layers of complexity and movement. This is an abstraction that refuses to be bound by time and space.
Yamini Nayar (b.1975, Detroit, USA) works at the intersection of sculpture and photography, creating works that question our understanding of space and time. Each work begins with her building stand-alone and wall-based sculptures composed of various studio and found materials, which, through the eyes of the camera, are turned into scenes reminiscent of architecture. In these recent works, shot in black and white, Nayar introduces colour by using multiple exposures and tri-colour separation, creating multidimensional visual spaces with an increasingly confounding complexity.