For five decades, Nalini Malani has in her cutting-edge art addressed social, political and societal issues pertaining to the Indian subcontinent, including the abuse and rape of women, and the struggle for democracy. Starting out as a painter, and experimental photographer and filmmaker in 1969, Malani broke once again out of the classical painting frame in the late eighties to reach a wider audience, with immersive installations, theatre, ephemeral wall drawings, erasure performances and video/shadow plays. Besides four retrospectives including Centre Pompidou and Castello di Rivoli, Malani has had in the last decade eight international museum solo exhibitions and was honored with three international life time awards.
In addition to film, I made my first photographic works at VIEW (Vision Exchange Workshop) in Bombay 1969/70. When VIEW had opened, and the dark room had been installed but there were no photo cameras available, I began a series of black and white camera-less photos, also known as photograms. My first photogram is titled Precincts, and has a linear structure, much like an architectural drawing. It was realized by placing different paper cut-outs and objects for a specific length of time under the enlarger on photosensitive bromide paper. The photograms became progressively complex, with different types of materials – opaque, translucent and transparent. Tonal nuances and minute variations were further achieved by ‘dodging’, a technique I learnt from my close friend, the artist Nasreen Mohamedi. From the final ‘photo’, I made a negative that was blown up to make the limited edition prints, which were for the first time exhibited in July 1970 at the Pundole Art Gallery in Bombay. These abstract-looking photograms were for me like the visionary blueprints of an ideal city plan for a modern India. These ideas I developed from the inspiring conversations with the architect Charles Correa at VIEW and my meeting with Buckminster Fuller.