When two is truly company

Updated February 01, 2015

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Untitled, Photos by the writer
Untitled, Photos by the writer

Collaboration between two artists in art is the ultimate test of an artist placing his or her ego aside in order to work towards a common goal. The image of the ego-driven artist may be somewhat stereotypical but there is some truth in suggesting that most artists find it difficult to invite other artists into their process directly. Not all are open to the idea of sharing an artistic vision in that manner, but for those who can work jointly — creating collaborative art can be a powerful experience.

An example of two well-known artists collaborating would be Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, their relationship was symbiotic and harmonious. Basquiat respected Warhol’s philosophy and was in awe of his accomplishments and mastery of colour. Warhol was amazed by the ease with which Basquiat composed and constructed his paintings and was surprised by his never-ending flow of new ideas. Each one inspired the other to outdo the next, the collaborations were seemingly effortless.

A similar collaboration took place between two eminent Pakistani artists Tassaduq Sohail and Riaz Rafi when an exhibition was held at Islamabad’s Gallery 6. Both artists based in Karachi teamed up to paint 24 canvases together for Pakistan’s first ever joint-solo. The show titled “Inimitable Cons­ilience” is a depiction of the fusion of styles between the two artists.


Tassaduq Sohail and Riaz Rafi’s collaborative art results in an array of compositions that echo the expressive styles of both artists


In comparison to Sohail’s subtle colour tones and figurative style in oil, Rafi has painted the canvas surfaces in bright acrylics. Sohail lets his imagination loose, his faces are expressive and he lets his subconscious take over while painting over Rafi’s bold yet dormant surfaces. Sohail sees man and animal in their natural forms, his imagery is independent and strokes confident.

Untitled, Photos by the writer
Untitled, Photos by the writer

Rafi’s abstract artworks in brilliant shades of red, yellow, blue and green complement Sohail’s distinct yet imaginative doodles. Both artists seem to paint effortlessly, their colours and compositions peculiar and at the same time original. There is an on-going pictorial conversation between the two, where they draw inspiration from each other. It was Sohail’s unintentional doodling on Rafi’s exhibition catalogues that prompted the idea of working on the same canvas together. What eventually revealed itself? The result was an array of compositions that echoed the enunciated styles of both artists.

Untitled, Photos by the writer
Untitled, Photos by the writer

Sohail and Rafi create an implication; a kinship and harmony exists between the two. The faces and figures on the canvases are dramatically outlined in unflinching black delineations. Sohail emphasises the assertive and excitable side while Rafi’s abstract touch adds a flamboyant magnitude to their collective endeavour.

The works seem to be a physical conversation happening in paint instead of words. The insightful realisations, simple humour being shared along with chitchat and an added dose of sarcastic remarks are all expressed with paint and brushes. Here is a sense that one is watching something being unveiled and discovered for the first time.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 1st, 2015

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