Liverpool’s Singh Twins are launching the Walker Art Gallery’s 2018 programme of exhibitions with a new show at the William Brown Street venue.
Slaves of Fashion features 20 new artworks by Amrit and Rabindra Singh, who have previously exhibited at the gallery including a major retrospective in 2005.
The internationally-renowned artists use traditional techniques used in Indian miniature painting to produce colourful and very detailed paintings which are packed with symbolism.
This new exhibition, three years in the making, explores how the history of Indian textiles is a global story of Empire, conflict, enslavement and luxury lifestyle which has contemporary relevance, focussing on the relationship between Britain and India.
The twins revealed they were inspired after a visit to a slavery museum in Nantes, France, where they were shown textiles produced in India for the French to exchange for slaves in Africa, featuring motifs that would appeal to the African traders.
Unusually, given their trademark way of working, most of the works in Slaves of Fashion will be mixed media, with traditional hand painted techniques combined with digitally created imagery.
Eleven of these feature symbolic portraits of historical figures which are displayed, life-size, as digital fabric artworks on lightboxes.
Detail from Indigo: The Colour of India
One, titled Indigo: The Colour of India, tells the story of the highly-prized colour known as ‘blue gold’ and used as a fabric dye for thousands of years, and features Queen Mumtaz (who inspired the building of the Taj Mahal) in modern blue jeans.
Others look at fabrics at the centre of political and economic conflict, including cotton, calico and muslin, along with chintz, which was a traditional Indian design appropriated by the British and which, centuries later, is now seen as quintesentially English.
Meanwhile works on paper include The King is Dead: Long Live the King which portrays American President Donald Trump enthroned on a catwalk, and Theresa May in a work titled Colossus of Woes.
Th Singh Twins say the social, political and economic subjects tackled in the intricate works also have a contemporary relevance.
The artworks are displayed alongside jewellery, ceramics, books, paintings, Indian textiles and embroidery from the National Museums Liverpool collection which also inspired the artists and some of which are referenced in the works.
A close up of part of the Singh Twins' artwork Chintz
Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said: “The Singh Twins work locally, but have a well-deserved international reputation.
“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to show their latest work at the Walker Art Gallery. Their newest pictures are not only visually stunning but also intriguing and challenging at the same time.”
Slaves of Fashion is at the Walker Art Gallery until May 20.