Why Nisreen Moochhala paints inside the box

Life Around Us by Nisreen Moochhala encapsulates the works of this Pune-based artist

Published - January 31, 2023 02:37 pm IST

Journey by Nisreen Moochhala

Journey by Nisreen Moochhala | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nosy neighbours eavesdropping on a courting couple, an overcrowded general compartment, a snapped clothesline, the surprise of sudden rain. Everyday scenes from lives around us, images that register but we do not always relate to, are Nisreen Moochhala’s inspiration.

An introverted child who loved to draw, Nisreen graduated from Mumbai’s JJ School of Art, a decision, which she says was partly influenced by the fact that, “there were not too many artists from the Dawoodi Bohra community,” at the time.

Nisreen Moochhala

Nisreen Moochhala | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Despite a couple of successful watercolour exhibitions in Kolkata where she had relocated, family life eventually took over and Nisreen stopped painting for a bit. It was abstractionist Jeram Patel, also an alumnus of JJ School of Art, who got her out of that zone. “Jeram lived in Kolkata at the time and one day he came home with a roll of canvas, saying ’If you want to paint, use it to paint; otherwise, throw it away.’ That is how I got started again,” says Nisreen, talking about her second wind which saw her take up oil colours, in her early 30s.

Though Nisreen saw another successful period of exhibitions in the company of artists Manu and Madhavi Parekh, she went through a phase, “where colour did not come,” experimenting with pencil and waterproof ink for her sketches.

Betrothal by Nisreen Moochhala

Betrothal by Nisreen Moochhala | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A visit to her maid’s home hit her hard. “I had always known people lived in small, cramped spaces, but seeing it in person was an eye-opener. Families cooked, ate, slept and lived in the same place — it was truly a matchbox home. It was congested and terrible.”

“For a while after this, the compositions of my paintings were within boxes and eventually, it came to me to make actual boxes and paint inside them.”These soon became three-dimensional in nature, with little figures fashioned out of paper placed within the box, eventually becoming her signature style.

Miniatures of people, animals, instruments, cutlery and other everyday objects populated her work, accentuating the painting. “I began doing this 22 years ago,” says Nisreen, now 88.

The Wall by Nisreen Moochhala

The Wall by Nisreen Moochhala | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nisreen fashions these models out of newspaper, covering them with ordinary white printing paper and finishing them with Nepali paper (rice paper), using watercolour to paint them and wire to hold them in place. From miniatures, she has moved to slightly bigger boxes, using acrylics to paint inside the box, and colour pencils for finishing touches.

Showing for the first time in Bengaluru, around 45 pieces of Nisreen’s works spanning two decades, are on display at Gallery Time and Space till February 3.

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