Soil and Soul


Landscape painting has been a popular genre among the viewers of Pakistani art owing to its no-iconoclastic nature. Even a layman is a good admirer of landscape painting. This is one reason that we can find this style of painting, as a part of miniature painting, back in the times of the Mughals and then as a proper developing genre in the British era.

In early years of Pakistani art, we can find traces of landscape painting, used as a backdrop in the miniature-like paintings of Chughtai, while Allah Bakhsh, in pursuit to skill himself in the western technique, explored the complexities of this style.

Allah Bakhsh tried to capture his surroundings as they were appearing to his sight, in a realistic manner. Soon this realist approach was to be confronted with a more sophisticated ideology of modern realism; an avant-garde style of landscape painting that emphasized on capturing the atmosphere of a particular spot and its surroundings, and its effects on the painter rather than the objective appearance of that specific landscape.

Khalid Iqbal, the first male teacher at the Fine Arts Department of the Punjab University Lahore, during his stay at the Slade School of Art London, came under strong influence of his mentor; Sir William Coldstream who, at that time, was an important torchbearer of modern realism in England.

Later, when landscape painting was actually introduced to an academic level, Khalid Iqbal emerged as an exponent of modern realism in Pakistan in the early 1960s regarding technique and subject matter. Khalid, not only inspired the first generation of landscape painters in Pakistan, but also skilled and trained them to explore their very own styles in this genre. Zulqarnain Haider, Aslam Minhas, Ghlam Rasul opted this painting style for their very individual visual experience. These painters prefer to go on the spot to feel the atmosphere and its effect before painting anything on the canvas.

After the pioneers, the young lot, never lost interest in this panoramic style and kept on painting the colours, shadows, clouds and light of Pakistan. Ghulam Mustafa, Zulfi, Shahid Jalal, Mughees Riaz, Durre Waseem and Naela Amir established their names in terms of landscape and cityscapes.

Ajaz Anwar discovered the watercolour medium for the rendering of life and festivities of Lahore and Ijaz ul Hassan paid attention on the social issues through his symbols flowers and Amaltas trees.

On the other hand, Zebeda Javed with her distinct style, which can be titled as “Conceptual Landscape Painting,” added more colours and emotional strength to this genre. Zubeda’s style was different and somehow challenging in a time when ‘on-spot’ painting and modern realism were popular among landscape painters. The imagination, and emotional value, based on the impressions on memory, helped Zubeda to develop a more humanistic approach towards landscape painting. This style and technique received attention of many of her contemporaries and students, and the conceptual approach in landscape painting emerged parallel to the modern realism in this style of painting. Musarrat Mirza is another painter who adopted this approach in her landscapes while few paintings of Khalid Mahmud also display imagination and conceptual patterns; before he fell in love with impressionism in his later work. In a varied fashion, Moyene Najmi and Raheel Akbar Javed were also experimenting with this genre, although they preferred modern idiom of abstraction and non-representational approach in landscape and cityscape painting.

Kehkashan Jafri and Maliha Aga accepted and promoted the technique and style where the emotional and personal expression could get to vent in a strong way.

There are quite a number of artists, who basically are not landscape painters and have their repute in other styles, even these artists could not stop themselves from falling in love with this enchanting painting style. Iqbal Hussain, Saeed Akhtar, Rahat Naveed Masud and Quddus Mirza are such few painters who earned names in portrait painting, figurative painting or in abstract or non-representational art, but at one point or the other in their lives, they put their hands on this genre.

Interestingly, the energetic generation of young painters is all set to communicate through the colourful palette of landscape painting; Muhammad Arshad, Amjad Naeem, Munawar Mohiudin, Najam-ul Hasan Najmi, Mirza Matloob Baig, Anila Zulfiqar and Iqbal Khokhar are experimenting with their painting techniques as well as with their visual perceptions.

Art in Pakistan has seen many favourable and unfavourable circumstances during the last three or four decades; the figurative art was discouraged and new styles like calligraphic-painting evolved. However, the landscape and cityscape painting, owing to its non-iconoclastic nature, gained popularity and acceptance in our society and kept on its journey of success in splendour.

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Source by Nadeem Alam