Shaan Syed

Shaan Syed


Shaan Syed’s paintings are thorough investigations into simplified forms, texture and colour. He employs a distinctive palette repeatedly into often large-scale paintings that become ongoing series. His paintings are recognizable in their tension between the graphic lines of hard-edge abstraction and gestural and personal mark-making. Syed layers paint, saw-dust, and, at times, plaster onto the surface of the canvas in order to build up texture, while subsequently pulling it off and forcing it into neat and tightened up lines and sections. He often scrawls his name or words documented over time into the canvas in English and Arabic, literally inserting himself and his personal narrative into a tradition of modern abstraction. Syed repeatedly paints a stepped motif, originating from a picture of the giant spiral minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra (Iraq, 9th c. C.E.). This photograph prompted Syed to bring the steps of the Minaret onto the canvas as a device for exploring abstraction and representation, while the symbolism of the Minaret provided a nod to the artist’s personal history and a connection to a history beyond Western abstraction.

“The use of the step initially came about from a desire to divide the canvas. By dividing, I set up a problem of configuring two sides back together. I was drawn to the minaret because it is a cultural signifier; a nod to my own personal upbringing, and one that I am using to explore the shifting nature of seeing.”

– Shaan Syed.

Shaan Syed was born in Toronto (1975) and now lives and works in London, UK. He holds an MFA from Goldsmiths College in London and a diploma in Fine Arts from OCAD in Toronto, ON. Recent solo exhibitions have been presented at FREEHOUSE (London UK), Parisian Laundry (Montreal, CA), Kunsthalle Winterthur (Switzerland), noshowspace (London, UK), and Michael Janssen Gallery (Berlin, DE). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions in venues such as the Power Plant (Toronto, CA), Aga Khan Museum (Toronto, CA), Patrick De Brock (Knokke-Heist, BE), Herrmann Germann Contemporary (Zurich) and David Roberts Art Foundation (London). Syed has received awards and scholarships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Elephant Trust UK, Arts Council England, the Canada Council for the Arts, and Jerwood Contemporary Painters UK. In 2018/19, Syed founded and ran Aqbar, a temporary gallery space in East London where he invited his peers to show one painting per exhibition. Syed’s upcoming solo exhibitions include Nuno Centeno Gallery in Portugal. Shaan Syed’s work is found in permanent collections including The National Gallery of Canada, Modern Forms, London, UK, National Bank, Canada, UBS Art Collection, London, Royal Bank of Canada, TD Canada Trust, Toronto and private collections in the US, Canada, the U.K, Europe and Asia.

Born in Toronto, ON, in 1975

Lives and works in London, United Kingdom