Monument and moment are two words, which sounds similar but are meaning apart. One is about permanence, immortality and eternity, while the latter is quick passing and fast disappearing. Yet both extremes meet because any monument is the record of a moment – the moment in which the monument was perceived or imagined. Structures, which were erected for public consumption, or as the proclamation of royal victories, are seen today for their initial purpose, but more being the specimens of art and aesthetics of their times.
We, the heir of human history, are surrounded by monuments of all kinds, and from various periods of history. Often structures of past are revered due to a sole feature: belonging to bygone eras. No matter if it is a combination of broken walls or crumbling columns, the romanticism with the heritage is sufficient to admire their presence in our midst. The fondness with the past structures is further seen in our attitude towards other art forms – physical, temporal and virtual, all which is endowed with ‘glorious’ history.
Monuments are of multiple kinds, but no matter if these are made of brick and mortar or with words (in the form of knowledge) these continue to connect a generation to the next. These convey ideas, ideologies and aspirations through ages, but as with each physical construction, which is destined to transformation and decay, concepts are also fated to alter, often turn redundant and irrelevant.
So when we view a monument, either in our city or on a far away land, we are seeing the mind of a person/society, through his/her concept/creation. Mughal monuments in our region are embodiments of Emperor’s ideas of beauty, perfection and purity, hence Taj Mahal. In our modern age, the monuments serve to preserve memory of a nation as well as to proclaim the political agenda of a state or religion.
Today we have a combination of monuments from different periods, but for a contemporary viewer all of these can be put in the same closet – old. Like days, weeks, years and centuries, which have innumerable experiences and numerous incidents, are grouped in a single category: past. Art Now Pakistan, in its current issue is exploring the diversity of this heritage, which can be traced from five thousand years to last month. At various countries, locations and sites, monuments are seen in different scheme, and the essays by Dua Abbas and Shahana Ranjani investigate this aspect with its urban, social and political overtones. The photo-essay by Jahanzeb Haroon presents a different, rather personal interpretation of monuments, nonetheless valid and valuable.
The present issue includes interview and profile of two artists, who reside in a private world. Both Masooma Syed and Moeen Faruqi create a scenario, in which outside is transformed into personal reflection. A trait that is visible in the art of Sadequain, since for the painter the outer world was an extension of inner self. Poetry and drawings by one of the most important artists of our times are collected in the book, reviewed this month. Although the two acts, drawing and writing are different, but not distant, because both are accomplished with the same medium: pen and ink.
Sadequain, like several other artists, never made a monument, but executed painting on a monumental scale; a fact that turns the individual into a monument, and reminds and reasserts that there is hardly a distinction between the creator and his creation.