New Emissary

Contemporary Connections

Indian miniature paintings stand out with a pop culture-laden, modern twist.

Global Art Report

(This is the second in a series of dispatches exploring Asian art in the UK, by Diplomat editorial assistant, Amy Foulds.)

Contemporary Connections: The Singh Twins

Accompanying the Indian portraits exhibition I covered previously is ‘Contemporary Connections: The Singh Twins,’ a collection of the modern works of renowned British artists Amrit and Rabindra Singh.

Proving the intrigue and continued value of Mughal art, the Singh Twins’ unique style is actually rooted in traditional Indian miniature painting. Very reverential of the original styles in Indian portraiture, many of their works feature the same flattened perspective and bright detail of the customary miniature paintings. From a distance, I even found it hard to distinguish the pieces as contemporary art. However, on closer inspection, it’s obvious that images of courtiers have cleverly been swapped for those depicting modern family life with plenty of popular culture references, while Mughal emperors have been replaced with modern day celebrities.

One of the works that resonated the most with me was the politically motivated Partners in Crime, depicting Bush and Blair in the middle of a bloody handshake with a seemingly traditional border that on closer inspection is actually a collage of harrowing images of devastation caused by war.

The modern works of Amrit and Rabindra Singh fulfil their aim ‘to introduce wider audiences to the beauty, richness and continuing value’ of Indian portraiture through a pop-culture laden and accessible collection. The two interrelated exhibitions at the National Portrait gallery thus represent to me the theme of growing awareness in self-representation, spanning not only the three centuries featured in the first collection, but also the last few decades right up to the present day.

Contemporary Connections: The Singh Twins is currently on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London until June 20. Admission is free.

Image: Partners in Crime: Deception and Lies, 2004 © The Singh Twins: