Jason Seife & Nima Nabavi look back on collaborative show “Duality” and discuss friendship in Art

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Dubai-based Iranian-American artist Nima Nabavi and Miami-based Syrian-Cuban artist Jason Seife are the perfect proof that unity makes strength. Different backgrounds, different approaches to art and yet, a lot in common.
Their friendship and joined brainstorming sessions gave birth to their acclaimed show “Duality” that just wrapped up after being on display for almost 2 months at Alserkal’s The Third Line Gallery. Both their universes blending together so well, it seemed as if they have worked together for a lifetime. JDEED spoke to Nabavi and Seife to know more.

By Cynthia Jreige

Nima Nabavi, Tenet, 2023, Archival ink on canvas, 92 x 177.7 x 5 cm, framed

First of all, congrats on your show which last time we heard was close to selling out – Can you tell us how the idea of working together came about?

We originally met when we were both exhibiting artists at the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival in 2018. At the time we were both relatively new to the art world, and as self-taught artists we found a lot of commonalities in the paths that we were both on. We stayed in touch after the festival and made a habit of sharing our learnings in our burgeoning careers – everything from the creative processes, mediums, and materials, to the nuances of navigating the business side of art. Over the next five years, we developed a strong and trusting friendship and became very familiar with each other’s practices.
Within these many conversations, the idea of collaborating with one another on a show was germinating but the challenge was to imagine a means of doing so when we both lived and worked in different cities. Eventually in 2022, we started discussing a show where works would be made in pairs of identically sized and shaped canvases that shared similarities in structural composition and/or color palette. We wanted to create reflective works that conversed with one another – telling the same stories, but in different visual languages.

Your two distinct artistic visions seem to collide so seamlessly; has there been any challenges while starting to brainstorm together?

Since we had been in dialogue for several years, by the time we decide to work on this exhibition together we had a solid understanding of each other’s studio practice and were aware of the similarities within our artistic approaches. A combination of that and our full respect and appreciation for each other’s work set us up with a really great foundation for creating these pieces. The only real challenges we came across were the conscious decisions to get out of our own comfort zones and use different compositions, materials, shapes, color palettes etc.
In the end we were both very happy with the choices and departures we made in transitioning from our previous paintings into these.

Jason Seife, Civic, 2023, Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 94.5 x 94.7 x 5 cm, framed

What words would you use to describe each other’s art?

Nima about Jason’s art : Ornate, Dynamic, Complex, Universal, Bountiful

Jason about Nima’s art : Geometric, Intricate, Captivating, Intrinsic, Infinite

What have you learned from each other during this process?

Nima about Jason: I learned a lot about structure and color from working with Jason. My work tends to have emergent properties, where embedded shapes are revealed as layers of lines are compiled. On ‘Duality’, we had to predetermine many structural touch-points to keep our works tethered together, and I was able to glean many of these methods from Jason’s techniques.
Jason is also extremely deft with his unique color combinations – while I had always tended towards gradients / spectrums. Working on these collaborative pieces, pushed me to take cues from Jason and work with color in novel ways.

Jason about Nima: Working on this exhibition along side Nima has taught me a unique way of looking at the structural elements within my paintings. I had never realized the level of geometry which was organically present behind the compositions I was using in my work. By seeing how Nima builds up his pieces through layers and layers of woven lines of geometry it allowed me to dissect my own work.
Looking at the paintings through this new found lens allows for me to approach the initial stages of a work in a completely different way.

What does showing in Dubai mean to you, a city where so many worlds collide?

We feel that Dubai has always been a perfect city for us to showcase our works, and we have been lucky to have always received strong support here from the beginning of our careers. Both of our practices echo elements of traditional art and craft that are indigenous to this region, so the audience in Dubai seems to feel a deep resonance with it.
At the same time, we think there is a modern and unique manifestation to our works which is in rhythm with the future forward momentum of this infinitely evolving city. Most importantly though, we both have good friends and loved ones here, and being able to share the show with them was very rewarding and special.

Nima Nabavi and Jason Seife, Noon, Archival ink, oil and acrylic on canvas, 157.5 x 157.5 x 5 cm, framed

Jason, you’d like to tell Nima…

Thank you Nima for going on this awesome journey with me! It’s been a privilege and honor to bring this body of work into fruition together. This exhibition and its impact on my artistic practice is something that I will cherish for many years to come.

Nima, you’d like to tell Jason…

It’s been such an amazing adventure working on this show with you. There was such a natural ease in our collaboration and this whole process has added a new dimension to my admiration for you and your practice. There’s really no one else I would have or could have done this with. Thank you bro!

Cover: Nima Nabavi and Jason Seife, Noon, Archival ink, oil and acrylic on canvas, 157.5 x 157.5 x 5 cm