March 27, 2010


Paul Seawright: From Hidden, 2003

There is another and subtler sense in which these images reference the hidden. With the exception of Nuristan, the landscape of Afghanistan, as I remember it and as Seawright’s landscapes confirm, tends inexorably to the minimal. The lowland deserts are mostly of the stony dasht variety, flat gravel plains stretching endlessly to the horizon, interrupted by occasional dry river beds or low outcrops of rock. The Hindu Kush range which covers the northern part of the country consists of largely barren slopes, often tortuously broken and ridged, between which sometimes nestle threads of piercingly blue water or patches of green vegetation clutched by the rock. The colours are generally muted, greys and light browns, mineral purples and ochres; even the rare greens seem faded. Above all, whether in the mountains or the desert, very little seems to obtrude on the landscape, which is made up of foreground and background, but only rarely of middle ground; when something does appear in the middle distance (a rider, a tree, a ruined tower or wrecked vehicle), it does so with unexpected presence. Such open, unvarnished statements of fact ought to suggest candour and guilelessness, but in fact they have precisely the opposite effect: surely, one feels, there is something hidden here after all - beyond that ridge, under that slope, at the far edge of the horizon. The paradox of Afghan landscape, successfully captured by Seawright, is that it always seems to be concealing something.

"Hiding in the Open" in Paul Seawright, Hidden. Imperial War Museum, London 2003. ISBN 9 781901 623758.

No comments:

Post a Comment