Shemi was born in Lithunia and studied art in Odessa. He immigrated to Israel in 1913 and studied at Bezalel .Between the years1928 to 1938 he lived in Paris and was highly influenced by Picasso and Cezanne. In 1942 Shemi served in the British army. When he came back to Israel he settled in Haifa and later moved to Zfat. One of the first to perceive the qualities of the Israeli light and landscape was Shemi, who was expelled from Bezalel for his rebellious ideas. From the very first painting, he tended to expressionism, divorced from romantic notions. He struggled fiercely to capture light and air, and his paintings gradually while influenced by Haim Soutine, took on a darker and more dramatic tone. His supernatural, dreamlike canvases of Zfat are considered his best works. Shemi exhibited regularly at the Citadel of David and Modern Painting shows in Tel-Aviv.