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Anwar Jalal Shemza

Born, 1928 in Simla, India. Died, 1985

Anwar Jaslal Shemza, sometimes refered to as AJ Shemza, Anwar Shemza, or just Shemza. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery mounted a retrospective of Shemza’s work, curated by Reyahn King. Held between 12 November 1997 and 1 February 1998, the exhibition was called simply, Anwar Shemza.  The exhibition came with an important and very useful catalogue, which included a Foreword by Graham Allen, Assistant Director, Museums and Arts. The Foreword effectively summarised and introduced the work of the artist:

“This exhibition presents to the public art which engages the viewer in a dialogue. Bold abstract shapes and strong colours challenge us to react. Intricate patterns and mysterious lines suggestive of architecture, plants, love letters or even dreams fascinate us and hold our attention. Part of the mystery in Anwar Shemza’s work stems from the unique mix of different cultures that he brought to his art. Trained at Mayo School of Art in Lahore, he settled in Stafford in 1962 where he taught and practised art until his death in 1985. This exhibition celebrtates more than this local significance however for Shemza was an important modern artist.

This is the first retrospective exhibition of Anwar Shemza’s work and shows the full range of his art. Shemza’s works are best known for their lyrical motifs and calligraphic style taken from Islamic and Asian culture but he had also pioneered western ideas of abstraction in Pakistan. The works on display demonstrate Shemza’s range of techniques and his extraordinary skill in the production of drawings, paintings and prints, often using handmade materials.

The exhibition should appeal to everyone interested in twentieth-century art and abstraction, in Islamic and Asian art, and in printmaking. It should also remind us that modern art is the product of individuals who, like most of us today, are influenced by many cultures. Shemza’s motifs and inspiration, taken from both Asia and Europe, produced an art that, through its fusion, is universal in its appeal whilst bearing the individual stamp of a passionate and dedicated artist.”

Anwar Jalal Shemza’s work was included in the landmark exhibition The Other Story: Afro-Asian artists in post-war Britain, Hayward Gallery, London, 1989. A detail of his painting The Wall (1958) was used on the front, spine and back cover of the catalogue for The Other Story (Rasheed Araeen, 1989). The cover of The Other Story catalogue was reproduced in the Transforming the Crown catalogue as part of the essay The Emergence of the Black British Artist, by Eddie Chambers.

The Wall was reproduced as part of Kobena Mercer’s Introduction to Discrepant Abstraction, Copublished by inIVA and MIT Press, 2006

From the Anwar Shemza exhibition, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery acquired ‘The Wall’, one of Shemza’s ‘Love Letter’ prints, as well as ‘Meem’ print for its permanent collection.


Related items + view all 14

click to show details of The Other Story - exhibition guide

»  The Other Story - exhibition guide

Exhibition guide relating to an exhibition, 1989

click to show details of The Other Story - Manchester invitation

»  The Other Story - Manchester invitation

Invite relating to an exhibition, 1990

click to show details of The Other Story - Wolverhampton invitation

»  The Other Story - Wolverhampton invitation

Invite relating to an exhibition, 1990

click to show details of Third Text: The Other Story

»  Third Text: The Other Story

Journal relating to an exhibition, 1989

click to show details of Transforming the Crown

»  Transforming the Crown

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1997

Related exhibitions

»  Anwar Shemza

Solo show at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. 1997 - 1998

Related venues + view all 7

»  Aicon Gallery

London, United Kingdom

»  Cornerhouse

Manchester, United Kingdom

»  Hayward Gallery

London, United Kingdom

»  Manchester City Art Gallery

Manchester, United Kingdom

»  Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Wolverhampton, United Kingdom