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Tuesday April 16, 2024

History being created in the art world of Pakistan

Islamabad Pakistan’s first-ever ‘joint-solo’ exhibition of paintings by the well-established Tassaduq Sohail and Riaz Rafi opens today (Friday) at gallery6, which has created history in the country’s art world by encouraging a collaborative venture between artists of two different genres. Aptly titled ‘Inimitable Consilience,’ the show offers 24 paintings completed

By our correspondents
January 23, 2015
Islamabad
Pakistan’s first-ever ‘joint-solo’ exhibition of paintings by the well-established Tassaduq Sohail and Riaz Rafi opens today (Friday) at gallery6, which has created history in the country’s art world by encouraging a collaborative venture between artists of two different genres.
Aptly titled ‘Inimitable Consilience,’ the show offers 24 paintings completed by the two artists over a period of 16 months. The exhibition also includes a few paintings by each artist to help viewers understand their individual styles before they appreciate the combination.
A strong bond of friendship has existed between Sohail and Rafi for more than three decades. The idea of working together came when Sohail once doodled with a black permanent marker on a catalogue of Rafi’s exhibition and showed it to a common friend stating “I have defaced Rafi’s paintings.” The message soon reached Rafi, who rushed to see this “massacre” of his work but was stunned to see the result - the outcome was outstanding artwork that was unique but had the characteristics of both the painters. These doodles, the beginning of this historical show, are also included in the exhibition.
This unexpected product not only surprised Rafi, but also led to a new conviction that he and Sohail both should initiate a venture of painting the same canvases together. The first few paintings were shared with gallery6 in early 2014 and the gallery immediately offered to hold the first joint-solo show to these two leading artists. Soon their inner souls began to resonate together and the canvases they painted have unleashed the outcome of their visual unison and collective imagination.
“Although we began the work, we did not realize how difficult it was going to be. On each painting, we had multiple discussions over its evolution and completion. But since we had great understanding of each other’s approach, we successfully accomplished the task,” 52 year-old Rafi mused.
Both the artists decided on a formula to work. First, Rafi would make a complete painting in his usual abstract style (a few of these are on display) and then hand it over to Sohail, who would observe it carefully for hours and days. He would then begin to identify the hidden images in the abstract and unveil them by paints and outline. The finished artwork would be a unified agreed artwork, having mostly the bright vibrant pallet of Rafi and symbols and figures of Sohail.
Elaborating further on the exhibition, Sohail, aged 85 years, expressed that every artist has an urge to create something unique. The artist keeps thinking about it all the time, wherever he may be and whatever time it may be, even if he is asleep. This creative urge supersedes all thoughts, especially if you are a well-known artist as then one is in a constant search for presenting something unique. This exhibition is the outcome of that search for inimitability.
Discussing the unique exhibition, Aasim Akhtar, a leading art writer, critic and teacher stated that there have been artists who have almost always worked together as a couple or a pair or as simply partners, such as Gilbert and George, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Komar and Melamid, Bernd and Hilla Becher. Artists forming the group labelled as Cobra in 1948, have worked in collaboration since. In more recent times, Drew Beattie and Daniel Davidson have painted in collaboration through the 1990s. David Humphrey, Elliot Green and Amy Sillman have been painting together since 1996 under Team SHaG, and exhibiting regularly.
Discussing the point further, Dr. Arjumand mentioned that the most commonly quoted example of collaborative paintings is of American painters Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s. The two artists collaborated on numerous paintings together; however, they did not hold an exhibition of their work. Warhol usually painted first, allowing Basquiat to layer over his work, a manner mostly adopted by Sohail and Rafi too. Warhol and Basquiat also experimented for a three-way collaboration with an Italian artist Francesco Clemente, which was arranged by a European art dealer Bruno Bischofberger. This resulted in making of 12 paintings and three drawings.
After reviewing the images of this exhibition, Balraj Khanna, an art critic from UK wrote, “Ever indefatigable, Sohail continues to surprise and delight. Although he has been at the forefront of Pakistani art for the last two decades, this exhibition surely establishes him as the foremost painters of the subcontinent itself.” He expressed confidence that Sohail’s association with Rafi has led to creation of some masterpieces. The exhibition will continue daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. till February 1, 2015.