Many years ago, I was travelling in a local bus in Lahore. While sitting next to a mason, my legs were resting on his sack of tools. Till I was asked to remove my feet from the instruments of his work and his earning. That small, insignificant and brief encounter has etched in my mind the importance of a person’s materials: no matter if it is cement or steel, wood or wool, pencil or paper, computer or camera, brush or bronze, pen’s nib or the tip of a needle, all requires respect and reverence.
For every creative person, the material and tools are significant because these not only are employed to make something, but play a potent part in shaping the final product – in some instances, pivotal to start the creative process itself. The shift in material and choice of tools bring changes in the art of a certain epoch. Today some artists have registered particular pigments as their patent paints, mainly because a specific kind of blue, a particular type of black is essential to convey and contain their ideas and aesthetics.
But even if a creative individual works with one material, shared by millions across centuries and countries – like oil paint or wood, he is able to turn it into a special substance for him. Responding to its characteristics, exploring its possibilities, and extending its usage, he makes it his own, to the extent that imagery, ideas, technique, and medium become a unified whole.
In some cases, certain development in material and technology has been directly responsible towards artistic changes. For example, availability of oil paint in tubes (easily portable) contributed to the concept of painting from nature. Hence Impressionism. Or invention of camera was important for the idea of ‘Realism’ in art. Throughout the history of art – and mankind, the link between imagery and its physical format echo the connection of body and soul. One dependent upon the other.
Art Now Pakistan investigates the craft of material. Stones, minerals, vegetation and other substances of nature are transformed into works of art; as if by a magician. However, no matter how far they are removed, they still retain their presence within the work of art. So much so that work of a number of modern and contemporary artists is mainly about ‘materiality’. In our current issue, both essays examine the craft of material from different perspectives and so is the photo-essay, bringing snapshots of artists engaged with/in a factory in order to create site specific art.
The book review deals with the essence of craft in terms of its wider understanding in traditional cultures and industrial societies. The present issue of Art Now Pakistan is an attempt to understand atoms which make everything: a human being, a sculpture, a piece of pottery, a piece of poetry, a documentary film, a song, and a computer screen – the essential material for Art Now Pakistan.