The Singh Twins are changing the art world, one brush stroke a time.
Those of you who follow us on Facebook and Instagram will know that the MBRB girls are celebrating Raksha Bandhan by exploring the bond between sisters (Why are we doing this? Find out here). All through August, we will bring you stories about sisters – many of them regular women like you and me; some of them famous, such as the Ranaut and the Phogat sisters. Write to us if you have a story, poem or picture to share about your sister/s, tag us on FB or Insta with sisterly inspiration, and help spread the word by sharing our Stories of Sisterhood.
We live in an era which prizes individuality over almost any other human trait. The ability to work in a team, the ability to become a part of another’s self is almost frowned upon. Our heroes are men like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk- revered more for their pugnacity and individual brilliance than their ability to build human connections.
Amrit Kaur and Rabindra Kaur Singh- daughters of a doctor who emigrated to London in 1947- stand in proud defiance of these trends by creating a very collaborative and distinct school of art.
When in Art School, the two found themselves at loggerheads with their instructors because they had similar styles.
“When we studied, we were taught that self-expression and individualism were the be-all and end-all of modern art,” Rabindra says. “We were criticised for not being different enough. So we decided to challenge this western ideal of individuality by being the same.”
“Our individuality is our sameness,” says Amrit. And then they both laugh the same laugh.
Today the two make vivid art pieces which have been displayed in all the leading galleries of the world-including the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the National Portrait Gallery, London, the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, The Smithsonian Institute, Washington and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
They produce most of their work in tandem, often not knowing who is responsible for which brush stroke, and even dress the same. As Rabindra famously said :
“We are ‘twindividuals’,”
The Singh Twins also stand out as iconoclasts in an increasingly insular art world by deriving their influences from the ancient Indian art of miniature paintings over more modern Western Masters. They refer to their work as “past- modern” and their paintings are both intricate and playful, cheekily juxtaposing modern motifs in a very traditional artform to make very specific points about race and culture. The two are very influenced by Sikh History, but equally interested in the state of today’s world, the forces of commercialisation, and the increasing corruption of culture.
For instance- their most celebrated work 1984- at the outset looks like a clever miniature with the Golden Temple in the center of the image bordered with a crimson stream of blood. But look deeper, and you see a cackling Indira Gandhi, a blindfolded gaggle of reporters and piligrims in frenzy as they claw their way out. Suddenly, the painting transforms from an angry miniature into a historic account of this most heinous of days in Sikh history.
Or take a look at Marilyn Monroe from their series “Facets of Femininity”, where a very Asian-inspired background gives way to the zaftig All-American blondness of Marilyn Monroe, who herself is adorned with signifiers from Greek mythology’s Aphrodite (notice the golden apple in the front.)
No wonder their art has found fans among both serious art collectors and novices. More recently, their art inspired a fashion line by Tarun Tahiliani . He describes why they make a perfect fit for the world of fashion.
“I went into a hypnotic trance when I first saw [London-based artists The Singh Twins] work. In a way, I suppose I responded fully to their “Past-Modern” work (a series of vibrant, detailed paintings with Asian and Western influence and global iconography using traditional techniques from Indian miniature paintings), as our own philosophy is ‘All that we were and more’. It was a wonderful, novel, intellectual take on patterns and layering, with such wit and finesse. I could not wait to put a collection of ready-to-wear easy pieces together.”
And when you see one of the dresses from this collection you know exactly what he is talking about!
— Tarun Tahiliani (@Tarun_Tahiliani) March 24, 2015
These sisters are ready to take on the world of art and design (together!), and we couldn’t be more excited. You can see more of their wonderful art here.
Image from: sikhiwiki.org
Embedded Tweet from @Tarun_Tahiliani