The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion at The Walker Gallery
Internationally acclaimed artists The Singh Twins’ latest exhibition, ‘Slaves of Fashion’ at the Walker Gallery uses a range of mixed media pieces to explore the impact of India’s textile industry on global history. The Twins describe their art as being ‘past-modern’ rather than post-modern and this is certainly demonstrated in their work. The paintings not only discuss past events with modern relevancy but also combine old and new motifs and techniques. In doing so they create beautifully colourful pieces that convey the conflicts and suffering behind the history of textiles and fashion.
Indigo: The Colour of India – The Singh Twins
This particular painting ‘Indigo: The Colour of India,’ does just that. This piece tells the story of the prized blue dye of the indigo plant. The central figure is Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Emperor Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal in her memory. Juxtaposed to her traditional dress, she is wearing a pair of blue jeans, suggesting the influence of western values on traditional Indian culture. Initially, what is striking is the vividness and colour of this piece, however, a closer look at the painting depicts scenes of slavery. The impact of this is to show how beautiful textiles overshadow a history of immense oppression and suffering.
The King is Dead: Long Live the King
This exhibition, though primarily historical, reminds us that the suffering and conflicts behind the textile industry still exists today, with a few works detailing modern issues with the international textile trade such as ‘King Cotton.’ Their art is significant in conveying a need for a more responsible, ethical approach to fashion, rather than become a ‘slave’ to consumerism. The word ‘slave’ seems to have a double meaning in the title of this exhibition to mean those who become metaphorical ‘slaves’ of a culture of fast fashion and those who were and are literally enslaved to create beautiful clothing.
The Singh Twins appear to be part of a new ‘woke’ culture, which seeks to highlight ethical issues, alongside an increase in the visibility of vegetarianism and veganism, environmental activism amongst many other things. Through the anguish and oppression depicted in their work, The Twins perhaps allude to a more hopeful future, by reminding us not to repeat the abuses of the past.
Slaves of Fashion is at the Walker Gallery until the 20th of May 2018.