Anwar Jalal Shemza

The Fable (Die Fabel)

Shemza The Fable The Estate Of Anwar Jalal Shemza 1500 - © The Estate of Anwar Jalal Schemza
  • Anwar Jalal Shemza
  • The Fable (Die Fabel)
  • 1962
  • Oil on hand dyed cloth on mountboard
  • 68 × 47 cm
  • The Estate of Anwar Jalal Schemza - © The Estate of Anwar Jalal Schemza

The art of Anwar Jalal Shemza is replete with references to his university education in philosophy, Persian, and Arabic in Lahore, Pakistan, as well as to his subsequent time in London, where he would spend his free time studying the collections of the Tate Gallery and the British Museum. Shemza’s notebooks from this period reflect his deep engagement with both the calligraphic traditions of Sufism and Islam and the modernist movement of linear abstraction, particularly the work of the Swiss artist Paul Klee (1879–1940). Of special interest to Shemza was the manner in which the written word could constitute both an independent geometric component within the composition and also represent a link between the sacred and profane. Thus, such works as The Fable (1962) reflect his continual desire to break down mere representations of the written word, the “architectural reality” of the world itself, and the divine ‒ transforming all into a series of “mysterious signs” that cut across both figurative and abstract traditions. As Shemza himself stated, “My paintings are not only to look at but are also writings to be read.” 

In this work, Shemza depicted both quadrilateral and semicircular motifs ‒ which, to the viewer trained in the Latin alphabet, recall a succession of Ds and Bs ‒ interspersed across a painterly field of gold, blue, and white. The art historian Iftikhar Dadi described them as “bound by geometric reticulation in passages of varying modulation and frequency.”

Damian Lentini

Biography of Anwar Jalal Shemza

  • Born 1928 in Shimla, British India
  • Died 1985 in Stafford, UK

More artworks by Anwar Jalal Shemza in the exhibition

Shemza Meem Private Collection 1500 - © The Estate of Anwar Jalal Shemza. Image courtesy of Jhaveri Contemporary and the Estate of Anwar Jalal Shemza. © Vipul Sangoi
Anwar Jalal Shemza
Meem, 1964
Butcher Family Collection