Little can be anticipated when two artists come together to create any piece of art.
Juxtaposing distinct elements of style, their conversations become visuals that speak on their own. Working as a part of each other, yet apart from each other, encompassing a plethora of themes, ideas and dimensions, layer by layer.
Such is the paradoxical harmony of the collaborative duo entitled “Hazy Opposition / Silence Resilience” that features artworks by the young artists Anjum Alix Noon and Shireen Ikramullah Khan, recently put on display at Satrang Gallery.
“The artists approached the gallery, several months back with their rather unique concept and we (at the gallery) are always looking to support contemporary art practice that is pushing boundaries and creating out-of-the-box ideas,” says Asma Rashid Khan, the gallery director.
Comprising a total of 15 canvases of varying sizes and dimensions, the overall exhibition is a commentary on the various facets and stages of the creative process that each of the artists has experienced and expressed in the process of working together.
In the artworks on display, text and image, painting, representation and abstraction cross over, along with the idea of semiotic exchange – whereby text becomes image and image becomes text. The end product is a combination of the distinct art movements: Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism and Graffiti.
Speaking about the exhibition, Khan says: “As two people working on a single canvas, we are opposing each other, but it’s not very extreme – there is a wonderful synthesis between their work. It’s not loud as such, it’s very subtle, something not perceived as normal. Each layer tells a story.”
The collaborative duo speaks volumes about the stages both the artists have gone through to complete each art piece. They started out by spitting the canvases between themselves and sending the canvases back and forth in multiple rounds till they collectively arrived at a conclusion with each piece, before having the collection displayed at the gallery. The resulting art pieces are a manifestation of this turn-by-turn exchange, where one artist was not aware of what the other one would do.
“(The question is…) how do two artists work on the same canvas, without overpowering the other artist’s imagery, so you have to complement each other and then to be able to put your ego aside?” she remarks, adding that the process often tends to get complicated.
They started out by spitting the canvases between themselves and sending the canvases back and forth until they collectively arrived at a conclusion with each piece
Reflecting on famous collaborations between Western artists throughout history, she cites the example of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michael Basquiat, who were known for being particularly volatile when it came to working together, ‘always fighting and throwing things at each other’.
Similarly, artists Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh did not get along. They worked together but hated each other. She adds, “I think it’s the reverse with us – our friendship has become so strong through this, the paintings have brought Anjum and I together. The world is always in conflict, but it does not have to be. You can always work things out, why can’t you bring it together.”
“It’s irrelevant what the artists were thinking or contextualising. It’s a pure synthesis of two minds!”
Referring to their own engaged exchange, Noon says: “We allowed ourselves to get to know each other through work. We go subjective, then objective and subjective again – it’s in multiple levels.”
She further goes on to say: “It is an ongoing evolution and creative process.” Each artist has their own personality and thought process, so when they’re able to find that ground which is going to present itself to them, they feel they have reached a meeting point and then they let it go, she explains.
While Khan’s strokes bring an organic, painterly and free-flowing essence to the canvases, Noon’s interplay of pop art, stencil and graffiti complements the imagery with bold text and intricate patterns.
Just like the diversity of their expression, both the artists have experimented with a mix of mediums including spray paint, stencils, acrylic, pencil, ink, collage, water colours, graphite and coffee stains.
However, all of these do not necessarily figure on each canvas, rather it is a combination of various media to create a scene, a smoky silhouette, setting off the trail for an open-ended conversation of sorts.
Both of the artists have taken a subjective approach to exploring the imagery and obscuring any theme in particular. Once the the artists have applied the final touch to the artwork and it is out of their studio, it has its own presence, states Noon. “The artists have put it out there, it’s irrelevant what the artists were thinking or contextualising. It’s a pure synthesis of two minds!” she adds.
Recounting the comments of neuropsychiatrist Doctor Benoit Tallec, who analysed the philosophy of their artwork, Noor said: “He (Tallec) said that collaboration is when you already have a goal, what you (Noon) and Shireen have done, is produced something – probably you did not know, almost akin to producing a baby.”
The artworks are accompanied by poems by Martine Jaureguiberry, a Paris-based writer, who has visited Pakistan in the 1970s. She has written 15 poems, one for each painting. Translated from the French to English language, an assortment of the poems corresponding to some of the art pieces have been placed at the bottom of the paintings in the gallery.