They operate units of two. Their artistic identities are solely as twosomes. More than their working lives, they often share large swathes of personal space too. Some even share an email address. Welcome to the growing tribe of duos.
Collaboration was the norm in the artistic world not long ago. At the time of Renaissance, European art — the centre that affected artistic modernity in the deepest manner — was ruled by ateliers. They were gurukuls of a sort where apprentices worked with masters. In our subcontinent, too, art or craft was more often a collective effort.
But the system came to suppress artistic expression, artists started drawing more for their own passions than for commissions. The Impressionists in France in the late 19th century and the Bombay Progressives in mid-20th century revolted against the guarded salon system of their countries. Both rallied in the name of individuality.
But guided by a new set of reasons, we are again seeing a rise of collectives — especially of duos. But how do they keep off each other’s toes? How do they agree on aesthetics? We look at three distinct duos — who can’t think of working individually — blazing their own trails in our world of art.
Rao & pors
The beginning: Bangalore-bred Aparna Rao was designing flight simulators for the air force and Danish-born Søren Pors was making games before they met at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy, a decade ago. “We were daunted by our classmates and stuck together,” says Aparna. Both of them, now based in Bangalore, identify themselves as introverts.
Division of work: “We start everything with simulation on computers,” says Pors. “Then we make cardboard models.” Pors takes on the technical details while Rao works on the overall production. Do they share an email? “No, no... That would be horrible,” says Pors.
Rao on Pors: “His technical manuals, which accompany all our works, are brilliantly detailed. But he can give up on an idea easily. Sometimes he doesn’t know what time or day it is... it’s frustrating.”
Pors on Rao: “She’s much more constant, she never lets go. But sometimes she’s hovering around, while I’m on the details... And I simply don’t like her music.”
The Singh twins
The beginning: After a trip to India, UK-born twins Amrit and Rabindra Kaur got interested in miniature paintings. But their art professors thought they were plagiarising from each other. “We have only ever spent one week entirely apart from each other — when Amrit was in hospital,” says Rabindra. They sent identical replies to individual mails from HT.
Division of work: They do everything together. “In our film work, Rabindra takes the lead on editing, while I tend to focus on scripting and storyboarding,” says Amrit.
Amrit on Rabindra: “Our political, social, cultural outlooks are in tune... I couldn’t envisage wanting to go it alone, but if I did, there would be little difference in the work.”
Rabindra on Amrit: “If we do have any issues to solve, it is normally over the little things — like what colour to use for a particular detail.”
Thukral & tagra
The beginning: It started in 1997 when Jiten Thukral, 2 years senior to Sumir Tagra, were at a queue in Chandigarh Art College. They next met each other again at a queue — this time at Delhi Art College. Both went on to work in advertising, which earned them awards and boredom. And, “without a plan”, started showing in 2003.
Division of work: “Our work is process driven. We don’t want to be spontaneous... Sometimes we are surprised that we have been researching the same thing, entirely separately,” says Jiten. The two now live together, with their wives, close to their studio in Gurgaon.
Sumir on Jiten: “Jiten is always eager for new things, he never says no. But the other side of it is he’s usually much more excited. Whereas I tend to be a bit more relaxed.”
Jiten on Sumir: “The best thing about him is his detailing. There is no bad bit really... but what at times can be difficult are his mood swings.”