Sadequain is considered one of South Asia's most important modern artists, and his public works adorn many of Pakistan's institutions and historic buildings such as Frere Hall in Karachi, the State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi, and the Lahore Museum. Sadequain came from a family of calligraphers which greatly influenced his style. While much of his work is broadly figurative, the formal qualities of calligraphy, so integral to visual and literary culture in Pakistan, dominate his aesthetic oeuvre. Whether as literal text in his paintings and drawings through quatrains of poetry, or as a compositional tool for his abstracted figures, calligraphy is at the heart of Sadequain’s practice.
A romantic bohemian, Sadequain was drawn to Paris, where he lived from 1960 to 1967, following an invitation to visit from the French Committee of the International Association of Plastic Arts. His work was greeted warmly in Europe, winning him quick success including the laureate award and scholarship in the category 'Artists under 35' at the second Biennale de Paris in 1961, which allowed him to remain in the city. Reviewing the artist's work, Raymond Cogniat, who founded the Biennale, noted, “His grand compositions in black and white demonstrate what close links exist between this art and its traditional sources, notably calligraphy, whose influence the artist himself recognises. The abstract art thus takes on the value of a mysterious language. On this secret significance of the manuscript, Sadequain adds up the impression of space, density, volume and the reality of matter, which transforms an abstract thought into a material fact in plastic” (R. Cogniat, Le Figaro, 16 October 1962).
Painted at the end of Sadequain’s successful stint in Paris, this exemplar of calligraphic abstraction represents the very essence of the practice of Pakistan’s most celebrated modern painter.