The book surveys the life and career of Shemza, an artist born in 1928 in India and known for layering postwar geometric abstraction alongside Arabic calligraphic forms.
The volume includes more than 120 illustrations of works and archival material, as well as essays by Dadi, Shezad Dawood, Rachel Garfield, Courtney J. Martin and Hammad Nasar, who explore Shemza’s work and reception and the influence of his work on younger generations.
Shemza attended art school in Lahore and was soon recognized as a leading artist and literary figure. He moved to London in the 1950s to study at the Slade School of Fine Art. His paintings, drawings and prints engage with issues of identity, culture and place in the modern and contemporary era.
"Shemza re-territorialized the Arabic script, foregrounding its trans-local nature, while making its aesthetic engaging to the outside and thus destabilizing simplistic associations between art and nation,” Dadi writes in his essay.
Dadi’s research focuses on art from the late 19th century to the present, especially modern and contemporary art of Asia, the Middle East, and their diasporas. Another research interest is his study of media, crafts and popular culture with reference to ongoing socio-aesthetic transformations in South Asia. He is the author of “Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia” (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).