Anwar Jalal Shemza

Anwar Jalal

Anwar Jalal Shemza was a leading figure in Pakistani life, renowned for his modernist, abstract explorations of identity, inspired by Mughal and Hindu culture. He was a founding member of the Lahore Art Circle.

Born in Simla, India, Shemza studied at the Mayo School of Art, Lahore (1944 – 47) before moving to London in 1956 to study at the Slade School of Fine Art. During this time, he transitioned from an illustrative and figurative visual language to creating vigorous compositions that fused aspects of Islamic architecture and calligraphy with Western abstraction.

Certain themes and motifs recur throughout Shemza’s work such as the walls and gates of Lahore and the Arabic letter ‘Meem’. His final series explored notions of belonging in the Pakistani diaspora.

Shemza exhibited across the world before his sudden death in 1985. He was included in the seminal exhibition, The Other Story, at the Hayward Gallery in 1989. In 2016,  he was the subject of a solo BP Spotlight exhibition at Tate Modern.