Property from a Private Collector, Singapore

Anwar Jalal Shemza

Square Composition 4

Auction Closed

October 26, 03:08 PM GMT


45,000 - 65,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from a Private Collector, Singapore

Anwar Jalal Shemza

1929 - 1985

Square Composition 4

Oil on hardboard

Signed and dated in Urdu upper left and further signed, dated, titled and inscribed '"Square Composition / 4" / oil on hardboard / 61x61 cm / Shemza / 1963' on reverse  

61 x 61 cm. (24 x 24 in.)

Painted in 1963

Estate of the Artist
Acquired by the current owner from Green Cardamom, London, March 2010

Anwar Jalal Shemza enrolled at the Mayo School of Art (now National College of Art) in Lahore in 1944. In the following decade he established a graphic studio, edited the Urdu literary journal Ehsas, published several successful short novels and founded the Lahore Art Circle in 1952, along with Ahmed Parvez and Syed Ali Imam. In 1956, he left for London to study at the Slade School of Art, after which he began a life-long quest to find his own distinctive voice.

'Anwar Shemza chose to strike out in an individual direction entirely of his own invention'.

- G. M. Butcher

(R. Garfield, ‘Navigating the British Landscape’, in I. Dadi ed., Anwar Jalal Shemza, London, Ridinghouse, London, 2015, p. 20)

The art he went on to produce held a multitude of influences, seeking inspiration in the modernist abstraction of Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, as well as in patterns and shapes found in Islamic calligraphy, Mughal architecture and the letters of the Roman alphabet. The late 1950s and early 1960s were a period of great critical acclaim for Shemza. He was part of the triumvirate of artists from the subcontinent – along with Francis Newton Souza and Avinash Chandra – who showed together at Victor Musgrave's influential Gallery One in London in the 1960s. Shemza also held notable one-man exhibitions around England, at New Vision Centre (1959), Durham's Gulbenkian Museum (1963) and Oxford's Ashmolean Museum (1964).

Painted in 1963, Square Composition 4 is from this period of critical success and depicts the distinctive visual vocabulary for which the artist is lauded. Here, glowing sun-like orbs circles sit upon an intricate geometric grid in white and grey, incorporating the Roman letters B and D. This perfectly balanced network of colour and shape is set against a feathered ground of grey and muted yellow. Shemza is best known for simple geometric forms, cleverly woven into complex configurations, and the present work is a masterful and refined example.