Although human beings are not trees, and rooted, but they are connected to land in some other means. They walk, roam, run and crawl on it. Land is also the final resting place for a person, no matter if he is buried, burned, drowned, or cremated. In many cultures and societies, earth is considered and called Mother. Like mother, it feeds – through its crop, fruit, water; and it houses too – as people live on it and build their abodes using materials derived from earth. So, like his shadow, man cannot leave his territory.
This connection manifests in many forms: Religious worship, national pride, aesthetic attainment. Certain stones, mountains, trees are considered sacred in more than one religion. Chance birth to a place infuses passion for a country, resulting in patriotism that compels a human being to destroy enemy (belonging to another national boundary). Green fields, snowy hills, clear streams, regional trees, local plants and indigenous flowers are all perceived to be part of one’s identity, and praised as beautiful, hence the genre of landscape.
Landscape has been a popular theme for painters since Modernism, especially after movements such as Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism. V.S. Naipaul observes that the idea of a beautiful scenery was coined by cruise companies; to enhance their business they introduced the notion of exotic lands of incredible flora and fauna, alluring to desirable destinations.
To some extent in our midst, that concept of a perfect (and profitable) landscape persists, because apart from a few (Khalid Iqbal, Ijaz ul Hassan, Zubeida Javed, Mussart Mirza, Ghulam Rasool, Iqbal Hussain) most painters of landscape tried to attract market on the basis of a charming view. Stacks of canvases are daubed with variations of landscape, which in reality are no variation, because of predictable and repetitive imagery, handling and approach in these surfaces.
Actually, land cannot be only translated into pretty pictures of landscapes, because it includes other realities, which may be hard, harsh and horrible. A visit to rural areas in Sindh and Balochistan does inform about the poverty, due to barren lands and lack of means, especially water for fields. Skeletal animals, hungry children, and tired peasants indicate the situation of land, a direct contrast to other, more fertile and fortunate fields. Land also represents political conditions, since a location is identified with its inhabitants and their social and political aspirations and struggles.
Areas in developing countries, signify how urbanisation is taking over rural world. Far from industrial waste being dumped (South Asia is the largest dumping ground for defunct computer parts), the new housing schemes are taking over pastoral fields. With their steel, stone, brick and wooden structures, one wonders about the fate and future of rural land, and for how long it can withstand the onslaught of urbanization.
In an extraordinary issue, Art Now Pakistan presents various aspects of terrain: historic, political, social and aesthetic points of view, especially in the way a society is divided into different territories, each striving for its appropriate place in the larger scheme of things. From the depiction of a land outside one’s house, or street, to issues such as the representation of communities in a commonly administrated system, to the divide between nature and consumerism are some of the points to ponder while scrolling down pages of Art Now Pakistan. Particularly, with the digital medium of communication and publication, it makes one unaware of one’s feet on a specific ground, because you can be in a different city, country, continent, or in the flight, yet you can access everything, as long as you got your Wi Fi, the terrain of the future!