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  • Divya Sharma

Brief précis on landscape as a political symbol

The idea of landscape in art as a medium for expressing the political upheavals of the time is an interesting one. It is a marketable commodity to be presented and represented in packaged object to be consumed, and brought home in the form of souvenirs such as post cards an photos. Although landscape has a specific price, it seems ‘priceless’ to the person who looks at it for aesthetic pleasure without taking into the background social and economic realities.

The value of land, real property contains a limited quantity of wealth in minerals, vegetation, water and its wealth is exhaustible. But through photographs postcards and paintings the notional perceived value is limitless. The naturalistic poses of the landowners were a sign of class with the landed gentry being themselves in their surroundings and acting naturally. Nature was a sign of the owner’s class and yet it signified the values that legitimize this status and privilege. John Constable’s iconic English countryside paintings too are symbolic of the changing conditions and onset of industrial revolution. He shows men caught in rural work and a system of production that they neither own nor control. Even the natural settings can be interpreted as a production site. The large paintings marked the passing of the rustic landscape and in their seemingly nostalgic and idealistic version of the English countryside they also spoke of a new reality.

There is a kind of healing in Kiefer’s work through his angst-ridden murals and landscapes and he has kind of used his ruinous and scabbed surfaces to show for the emotional upheavals of the German psyche. It is interesting that when other constructions of nation are vague, the enduring presence of iconic landscapes is a way of forming an identity of nationhood. The idea in the west of the American landscape as a virgin space, which was compromised by the presence of the indigenous people, is interesting. According to them, since nature has no history the indigenous people dwelling there cannot be considered as people at all, but as fauna and thus deemed to be absent. In fact, colonialism had a similar ideology where the colonizers felt they were doing the colonized a favour by helping them become more ‘civilized’.

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