11 Oct 2023

Sadequain and Calligraphic Abstraction

Iftikhar Dadi
Paris, France
The École des modernités

Iftikhar Dadi is John H. Burris Professor and Chair of Cornell University’s Department of History of Art. He researches modern and contemporary art from a transnational perspective, with an emphasis on methodology and intellectual history, and a focus on South and West Asia. Another research interest examines film and popular cultures of South Asia. He has authored Lahore Cinema Between Realism and Fable (2022), Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (2010) and edited The Lahore Biennale Reader 01 (2022) and Anwar Jalal Shemza (2015). He has co-edited Art and Architecture of Migration and Discrimination: Turkey, Pakistan, and Their European Diasporas (2023); Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2012); and Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading (2001). Co-curated exhibitions include Pop South Asia: Artistic Explorations in the Popular (2022–23) and Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2012–13). As an artist, Iftikhar Dadi collaborates with Elizabeth Dadi to make work that explores questions of identity and borders, and the capacities of the informal urban realm in the Global South.

Subscribe to the École des modernités' newsletter

Iftikhar Dadi 

The Pakistani artist Sadequain (1930-1987), who lived in Paris during the 1960s, is exemplary of an important development in modernism in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia region, which I have termed “calligraphic abstraction.” In the wake of decolonization, an intensive search for new artistic languages began, which would seek to recover expressivity that had been repressed under colonialism and that would also actively produce a new modern culture. Modernist experiments in calligraphic abstraction have foregrounded textual, abstract, and calligraphic modes, and evacuated iconic signifiers. Modernist art’s relay with calligraphy—in its dialogue with post cubist developments—reterritorializes the Arabic/Persian/Urdu script, foregrounding its discursivity, and making its aesthetic permeable to ongoing aesthetic transformations.

Wednesday 11 October, at 6:30PM
At the Giacometti Lab : 9 rue Victor Schoelcher, 75014 Paris 
& live on Youtube
Lecture in English by Iftikhar Dadi 



To search for a work, consult the Alberto Giacometti Database