Tribute to pioneers: ‘Shemza conceived Pakistan’s modern art’

An exhibition of Anwar Shemza’s paintings opens at NCA

Two of the paintings featured at the show. PHOTO: MARIAM SHAFQAT/EXPRESS


“Anwar Jalal Shemza was one of the movers and shakers of the 1950s when our society was first exposed to modernity,” former National College of Arts principal Salima Hashmi said on Friday.

She was addressing an exhibition at Zahoorul Akhlaq Gallery at NCA. The exhibition which pays tributes to Anwar Jalal Shemza and Musarrat Mirza has been organised in collaboration with the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF).

Hashmi said Shemza was a versatile character of Lahore’s art circles in the 1950’s.

“He wrote plays and short stories,” she said.  “Later, he went to England to study. He intended to return to Pakistan but passed away in 1989.”

She said was honoured that his wife, Mary Katrina Shemza, had brought some of his work after nearly 10 years.

Hashmi said more than 10 pieces by Shemza were lying with the National Gallery in Islamabad. “They are refusing to return them to his wife, even though they were offered for only a temporary exhibition.” Hashmi said Shemza’s work should be returned to his family. “The national gallery does not have the right to retain those works.”

Hashmi said Musarrat Mirza would be given a life time achievement award at the LLF.

“Having spent almost all of her life in Sukkhur, Mirza is the painter of Sindh. She understands the moods, lights and textures of Sindh,” Hashmi added.

More than 10 of Mirza’s paintings were put on display at the gallery. The medium of these paintings is oil on canvas. NCA Principal Murtaza Jafri said Shemza’s ink-on-paper drawings were a condensed expression of line, form and colour with a touch of minimalism.

“He is one of the pioneers of modern art in Pakistan. His work was done at a time when it was considered unimaginable”, Jafri said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2016.


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