Artist twins who meld traditions (by Margaret Cooter)

The Singh Twins, Amrit and Rabindra, have pioneered a new development of the traditional Indian miniature in modern art. Their work addresses important areas of critical debate, challenging stereotypes of heritage and identity.

The twins, who grew in in the United Kingdom, use the language of Indian and Persian miniature painting to depict the contemporary world. Their 2010 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London,  had a room of family scenes and another of the complex world outside the home. It’s intriguing to see how social commentary and political satire fit into the modern into the classical framework, for instance this teenager’s bedroom, rendered in the Indian miniature tradition, with a strong narrative, symbolic content, and eye for detail –

I particularly liked this idol-worshipper, her traditional shape in modern garments –

Apart from wit and skill, the work requires tenacity – it takes four hours to finish a stamp-sized section of the paintings, and the works on show were up to a metre high. The twins’ work is identical to the untrained eye, and in real life they dress alike to the last detail. In this podcast they talk about the concept of being “women artists”.

“1984” shows the notorious storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar – read more about the painting, and see a larger version, here.

One aspect of the artists’ commentary is the blindfolded reporters … but they are very hard to find in the online version.

In another mix of traditions, they received MBEs in 2011, and posed with the Queen’s Beefeaters –




2 Responses to “Artist twins who meld traditions (by Margaret Cooter)”

  1. 1 olganorris September 21, 2014 at 10:08 am

    It is frustrating not being able to see this work for real because it demands close observation. I’m intrigued by miniaturist work like this, which makes an ideal vehicle for social comment, drawing in the viewer and then surprising them, and using the traditional form can make more of a statement.
    It is interesting that the twins say that in their own culture it was probably easier to become artists because less money-earning-directed activity was expected of women. I think that that is widely true – although to become a serious successful artist I believe one is still generally expected to be male.

  2. 2 clairan September 21, 2014 at 5:31 am

    Fascination and unusual. I had never come across these artists but will look out for them now.

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