Past Modern - The Singh Twins

Photograph of the Singh Twins sat together at a desk working on a painting

22 January - 17 April 2005

Past Modern is the first major retrospective exhibition of work by twin sisters, Amrit and Rabindra Singh. Around 90 pieces by the internationally acclaimed artists will be on show at Walker Art Gallery in their hometown of Liverpool.

The Singh Twins employ traditional techniques used in Indian miniature painting to produce vibrant, exquisitely-detailed paintings that are a joy to explore. Some of the paintings are by a single twin - others are produced in tandem, with both painting simultaneously. The exhibition features works from the past seventeen years, as well as some new pieces.

The fusion of Asian and Western influence and their interest in global iconography has generated some fascinating juxtapositions in the Singh Twins’ paintings. This is both a reflection of their dual cultural identity and a clever vehicle for political and social commentary.

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'All Hands on Deck', 1997 (larger version) |

Their colourful, illustrative pictures cover a diverse range of challenging themes, from materialism and the cult of celebrity to politics. They question existing stereotypes and attempt to redefine narrow perceptions of heritage and identity in art and in society.

The Singh Twins’ work has an optimistic, decorative visual quality that captures the attention of the viewer and draws them in to the minute detail. Although their observations are often witty, closer inspection and interpretation reveals that they are dealing with themes of important critical debate.

Many early works, such as ‘All Hands on Deck’, were created in response to the prejudice that they encountered as art students when their style was criticised for being inappropriately rooted in an Eastern artistic style.

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Steppin' Out With My Baby (My Donna), 2003 [Larger version]|

Some of their most famous paintings are deliberately provocative, encourage debate and have sparked lively reactions in the media. These include the Beckhams as ‘the New Royal Family’ and the more serious ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, which depicts the human tragedy of the Indian Government’s storming of the Golden Temple in 1984.

During Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games, the Singh Twins were appointed as official artists in residence. They produced their SPOrTLIGHT series, which examined the relationship between the worlds of sport, media and celebrity. It features sporting icons such as Venus Williams, Muhammed Ali and David Ginola.

More recently they have worked on ‘The Art of Loving’ Ragamala series. This takes its influence from traditional miniature paintings that developed in 17th century India. These ‘ragamalas’ traditionally reflect the emotions prompted by melodies (or ragas) of classical Indian music. The Singh Twins reinterpret the Ragamala tradition in a contemporary context. Each work adopts the title of a modern Western popular song whose theme, melody and lyrics reflect the key sentiments of the painting.

A new book on their work; ‘Worlds A-part: paintings by The Singh Twins’ was published in January 2005 coinciding with the exhibition.