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  • Writer's pictureDeviprasad Rao

Symbiosis : Two souls one canvas

Being in love and being with the loving beloved is blessing. Being one with her or him and creating an artwork is miracle. Because creating with such oneness is forte of the nature as human consciousness is stepped out of it too long ago. Meet Petra Dreier and Michael Hanousek from Düsseldorf, Germany who are such two souls whose works of creative togetherness are embodiment of such oneness like the Divine nature. Petra and Michael were born and raised in different countries. Petra (1958) was born and grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia on the Lower Rhine, while Michael (1955) was born and grew up in former Czechoslovakia. They were also grown up in different political systems. From one hand Petra was part of “golden 50’s” of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and on the other hand Michael was part of Communist dictatorship of Eastern bloc, which he managed to escape in 1974. In 1977 Petra and Michael met at the Düsseldorf Art Academy where they studied together until 1984. It was in the academy they fell in love and sow the seed for life of creative togetherness. It is 34 years since they have married now to each other and have been painting together on one canvas or picture for about 30 years.

When I asked about what are their process of painting together on one canvas, Petra and Michael said, “It all begins with a provocation, with an artistically playful challenge.” Later, it is followed by an acceptance and continuation or rejection by one of the partners and abandonment and begin again. The painterly discourse that determines their art, today, could then begin via multi-part picture montages or centrally divided canvases: taking up, continuing or rejecting impulses from the partner, always with a view to the picture as a whole. The path to their collaborative work was not an easy path but developed and evolved over various stages and phases. In the beginning, the first duo pictures were created based on a division of labor. If Michael was responsible for the portraits, Petra was for the background. The strictly adhered to the limits. When the boundaries appeared too narrow and the background dynamics prevailed against the portraits until they disappeared and submerged in unison, that point they paused to paint. However, according to them over the years, subject areas have developed that set a rough goal. The interaction of their different temperaments often created tension and contradiction that they have learned to endure and progress. When both see the painting in balance and harmonious way, the process of further search for them is temporarily over. There ends the making of a painting together. “The prerequisites are empathy, experience, perception and respect for the partner,” they say.

At the same time, they consider a creation must remain inviolable, it must include something unexpected, unknown. It presupposes curiosity, makes you humble and then it is able to produce love. Going through this procedural path together for them is exciting and fulfilling. For Petra and Michael every collaborative picture helps them to learn more and more about one another. The state of their world and place they live or travel also constantly influenced their paintings. They always added something new. Subjective preferences don’t play a major role in their creation, but ‘necessities` that arise during the process of creation in every picture determines the eventual end result. “The jumps that you have to make over your own shadow demand a lot from each of us, but also release energy. Sometimes it takes weeks, months and sometimes years may pass by in struggle to reach to the end result of the painting that also accompanied by some heated discussions. When we both agree with the result, it is a happy feeling,” says the duo.

They recall that the path of a creative person is seldom a straight line. Detours and mistakes have to be accepted and endured. The resulting intensity brings a fulfillment that allows obstacles and disappointments to be overcome more easily. Time and experience help to gain strength and confidence from failure and to believe in the right decision for collaborative work. Finally, it is the life they live and work in great symbiosis with one another keep them going on decade after decade. However, their Collaborative Creations may be well managed for over symbiotic way of life, but the reactions of the world outside was very challenging. They may have received acceptance among the artists community as it is uncommon to live and work as artist couple in this world. But from the art business point of view, galleries and art dealers appeared more skeptical to accept them always, since separations of individuality is not possible in their creations. But such challenges have not demotivated them to put an end to their faith and belief in their collaborative creation. In the past we have seen many celebrity artists duos such as Edward and Nancy Kienholz, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Marina Abramović and Ulay and few others whose works part of the history of Artists Duos. With online exhibition at, “SYMBIOSIS-Two Souls, One Canvas”, I am attempting to create an awareness among the art lovers that Petra and Michael are one of such rare artists duos around us who are working with total dedication to live, work and walk together with creative zeal until the end. (Copyright 2021, Deviprasad C Rao. Author is an Artist, Curator, Writer & Artist Facilitator. Founder of Devamitra Artists Collective based in Zurich, Switzerland. He can be reached through this website



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