Several years ago, a Pakistani artist was interviewed by an international publication. On the question of being a Pakistani artist, he replied: he is an artist of Lahore. To him, city was older than the country, and might survive future changes in the country’s cartography. One can disagree with him, because in most instances, artists like to associate with a country – and in some cases, prefer more than one: Their place of origin, their land of residence, country of their interest and attention. For example, certain artists, writers and academics have explored a particular region, so their bondage with that location is an important aspect of their identity.
As we are allowed to have as many ideas, relationships and professions, we are also entitled to have multiple national identities. However, the presence of a city is still significant in shaping the life and work of an artist – and a writer. No matter if it is one city, or keeps on changing with time. Different creative personalities have been recognized due to their link with a city in their works. Thus St Petersburg for Dostoevsky, Bombay for Salman Rushdie, Istanbul for Orhan Pamuk, Dublin for James Joyce, New York City for Paul Auster, and Lima for Mario Vargas Llosa reoccur as the backdrop of their novels and short stories.
For visual artists too, city participates in forming their ideas and practices – along with a venue to access their creations. Lahore has been an important centre in the history, culture and art for centuries. A place that has welcomed numerous individuals and groups across years, thus producing some of the most exciting amalgamations in the world of music, literature, art, and knowledge etc. That trait of the city continues till this day, since the city provides opportunities to explore, experience and express diversity.
Art Now Pakistan in present issue approaches the city of Lahore as a site for art: Physical, social, cultural and historic. Essays, photo-essay, and profile/interview offer multiple views of a city that has produced some of the most respected names in the realm of art and culture.
More importantly, the city is still contributing in the area of culture in this era of displacement. Today, when a residential address is not as useful as an email address, an actual gallery is visited not as much as a website, the city still stands tall, due to its distinct character, what we tried to find here.