Shaan Syed

Shaan Syed


Shaan Syed’s practice is characterized by the decoding and re-contextualising of visual signs and references drawn from European and American post-modern painting. In Syed’s artworks, this approach seamlessly intertwines with elements from his personal experiences and cultural background. His works are recognizable by the tension between the graphic lines of hard-edge abstraction and gestural personal mark-making, often revealing the many revisions and changes undergone throughout their making. Together, these elements embody Syed’s concept of painting as “a process of reverse archaeology”, where material is added in order to uncover.


Often drawing comparisons and similarities across histories, with particular attention to Islamic architecture, craft and ornament, Syed explores traditions and contemporary preoccupations which have historically been considered part of vastly different worlds. “[Syed] takes the visual language of American abstraction (Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Jasper Johns, etc) and smashes it into non-Western symbolism.  …It’s abstraction with very un-abstract meanings and intentions” – Eddy Frankel.


Shaan Syed was born in Toronto, Canada and now lives and works in London, UK. He holds an MFA from Goldsmiths College in London (2006) and a diploma in Fine Arts from OCAD in Toronto (2000). Recent solo exhibitions include presentations at Bradley Ertaskiran (Montreal), Vardaxoglou (London), Sundy (London) Galeria Nuno Centeno (Porto), FREEHOUSE (London), Parisian Laundry (Montreal) and Kunsthalle Winterthur (Winterthur). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions in venues such as The Power Plant (Toronto), Aga Khan Museum (Toronto), Indigo + Madder (London), Nicodim Gallery (Los Angeles), Lundgren Gallery (Palma Majorca), Art Gallery of Peterborough (Peterborough), and the Roberts Institute of Art (London). Syed is the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award (2013) as well as the Arts Council of England and Canada Council for the Arts project Grants. His work is part of the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Art Gallery of Peterborough (Peterbrorough), UBS Art Collection (Dubai), Saatchi Collection (London), MoMa Library (New York), Goldsmiths College (London), RBC Art Collection and TD Canada Trust, among others.

Born in Toronto, ON, in 1975

Lives and works in London, United Kingdom