The Singh Twins: award-winning Liverpool artists want to build a legacy gallery in city
The Singh Twins’ artwork Painting The Town Red went viral following Liverpool’s FA Cup win - we explore more of the incredible work of sisters Amrit Singh MBE and Rabindra Kaur Singh MBE.
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In response to the victory at Wembley, they tweeted a piece of art created for a Euro 96 exhibition celebrating the team and the city called Painting The Town Red.
It depicts iconic sites and images from the city with jubilant Liverpool fans and players and aims to show how football is ‘at the heart’ of the region.
Amrit Singh MBE and Rabindra Kaur Singh MBE, known as The Singh Twins, who work together to create their art, told LiverpoolWorld: “Although not avid followers of football, we wanted to create artworks that show how football is at the heart of Liverpool life - almost like a religion to some - and something that can bring people together as a positive expression of our multicultural British society.”
Their unique art style could permanently become part of Liverpool - if the twins’ plans go ahead.
They said: “We plan to explore the potential for creating a Singh Twins legacy gallery which we would love to see established in Liverpool as a permanent educational resource and unique cultural offer for the city.
“Something that will enable continued public engagement with our work and provide a platform for discussing the important universal issues we explore through it which are so relevant today and to diverse audiences.”
Liverpool is important to The Singh Twins as not only do they live in Merseyside but their traditional extended Indian family also resides here with them.
Throughout their career the city has been a place where their art has been shown and celebrated.
The Singh Twins said: “Liverpool is important to us because we identify with it not only as our home city but a place that has supported and recognised our work.
“Be that through the major solo exhibitions which have been hosted over the years by National Museums Liverpool; the public artworks we were commissioned to create for Capital of Culture in 2008; being made honorary citizens of Liverpool and receiving honorary doctorates for our contribution to contemporary art.”
They have been creating artwork together since they were children but it wasn’t until they were in secondary school when they realised that they had a talent for art.
The sisters went on to study Contemporary Art as part of a BA Hons degree in Combined Studies where they developed a personal style.
But their art was not received well in the beginning.
The Singh Twins said: “Our tutors dismissed it as backward, outdated and having no place in contemporary art because it was rooted in the ancient tradition of Indian miniature painting.
“They kept pushing us to explore western role models in art instead.
“Looking at how many of the great innovations in western art history had been inspired by the artistic traditions of places like Africa, Japan, and India, we felt their assessment of our work and their determination to make us change was hypocritical.”
Their experience at university led the twins to take up art professionally as they felt they needed to use their work to challenge institutional prejudice in the contemporary art world.
“We have encountered prejudice both in terms of being twins and of Asian heritage.
“We deal with it by refusing to change who we are and by using our art and identity as twins to target the heart of that prejudice which in our experience goes back to a deep rooted colonial mindset of ‘west is best’ and misperceptions about the nature and history of the Empire,” they said.
The twins have delved into Liverpool’s darker colonial past and slave history in their work as they feel that is is important to acknowledge.
Their ‘Rule Britannia: Legacies of Exchange’ piece was commissioned by The Royal Collection Trust as a response to the ‘Splendours of the Subcontinent’ exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace in 2018.
They said: “It enabled us to delve deeper into themes that have been of particular interest to us for a long time - ones which explore the interconnected, hidden histories of Empire, colonialmsim conflict, slavery and luxury consumption and how these modern issues and debates around decolonisation, racism, trade politics and ethical consumption intertwine.”
It can take the sisters up to a thousand hours over the course of a year to complete a piece of artwork.
The Singh Twins said: “The creative process always starts with research which can be quite academic in scope and content.
“From this we develop ideas for the composition.
“Some artworks are produced by entirely hand-painted techniques.
“Others by combining hand-painted elements with digitally scanned and reworked archival materials as well as imagery created from scratch using digital tools.
“We share the same social political outlook and aims, so rarely argue when creating work together. But we occasionally have a difference of opinion about minor things such as what colour to make a particular detail. In which event we seek a third opinion.”
Their twinhood is often a topic for debate as the sisters are closer than most - they always wear the same clothes and have a unique perspective on individuality.
“The best part of being twins is having someone you can always share and celebrate life experiences and achievements with but also whom you can totally trust and rely on to be your supporter as well as a trusted and honest critic when needed,” they said.
“The conscious decision to wear the same clothes, and for that matter, to present ourselves as one artist goes back to the criticism we have received all our lives as twins for not being individuals - simply because we look the same or share the same interests and inspirations in life and art.
“Our choice to wear identical clothes is a political statement.
“It’s not so much about expressing our twin-ness but about using our twin-ness to challenge the whole notion of individuality as an essentially western value that is touted as being so important and central to western culture but in reality does not exist when you consider how our society is in fact shaped by the worlds of advertising and fashion and peer pressure to fit it.
“For us that remains an important message to convey - so we can’t see ourselves dressing differently anytime soon.”
Saturday 7 May - Sunday 11 September 2022 | 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, High Street,Colchester, Essex, CO1 1JH
The exhibition will then be showing at Norwich Castle Museum Art Gallery in October 2022.