CollaborArt on the canvas

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: History is in the making in the contemporary art world and two renowned Pakistani painters are to be credited with it. Tassaduq Sohail and Riaz Rafi, both based in Karachi, have collaborated to paint 24 canvases together for the “first ever joint-solo” exhibition in the world. Titled ‘Inimitable Consilience’, the show is scheduled to open at Gallery 6 ,on January 23.

According to Dr Arjumand Faisel, the curator of the gallery, the exhibition is unique because while seasoned artists have collaborated for artworks in the past, they have not tried at it before in the country or elsewhere in the world.

The exhibition depicts an amalgam of the artists’ distinct styles and artistic sensibilities. Sohail has painted oil-on-canvas figurative forms in soft and subtle colour tones, offset by Rafi’s bright acrylics. The images present an alternate dimension — a visual conversation between two creatively-driven individuals.

The faces are expressive, coloured in transient tones and outlined in bold and smudgy black contours. Drawing inspiration from within, Sohail brings out an edgy, confident and playful side through his bold subjects, while Rafi’s abstract artwork adds a surrealistic and sophisticated dimension to their collective canvases. The paintings exude a graffiti-esque feel, evocative and visually-appealing for their multi-layered treatment. Complementing each other’s art philosophy, the unlikely duo has whipped up a peculiar recipe for art lovers in the capital.

The two create a nuanced balance of symbols, colours and symmetry in their work. The combination of their individual palates is toned down in some places and gives off an almost psychedelic vibe in others. The colours seem to pour naturally from one image to the next. Faisel shared that the exhibition has already aroused curiosity and anticipation among people. “This association is expected to present masterpieces in the upcoming show,” he said.

Sohail and Rafi have been close friends for more than three decades and their synchrony is evident in their work. Sohail returned to the country after spending about four decades in England and has also exhibited his artworks internationally. Rafi has exhibited his pieces extensively within Pakistan, particularly in Karachi. The idea of working together came when Sohail doodled on a catalogue of Rafi’s exhibition. The outcome was artwork that reflected the distinct yet harmonised styles of both painters.

This surprised both of them and Rafi convinced Sohail that they both should undertake the adventure of painting the same canvas and hold a solo show. Connecting on a spiritual level, they have employed different approaches and colour palates and the resulting canvases speak of their collective imagination. Faisel underlined that the most discussed example of collaborative paintings was that of American painters Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s. However, even they had a three-way collaboration with Italian artist Francesco Clemente to paint 12 canvases.

In Pakistan, some artists have collaborated and painted on the same canvases before. For instance, Ali Azmat painted with his four-year-old daughter, Ada, in Karachi and the couple RM Naeem and Sadaf Naeem have exhibited their collaborative art pieces in Lahore. But this is the first time that two well-established Pakistani artists have joined hands to offer something new to the realm of contemporary art, which makes it out-of-the-box.

Express Tribune