Although we are twins ourselves, we still get awe-struck when we come across twins; because let’s face it, we are a special kind of people. No bias intended!
But it’s not often that we get to meet twins in person, especially a pair who inspire us. Even though we haven’t personally met (yet!), we always feel super proud and enthusiastic about the successes and achievements of two very special artsits and Twindividuals: Amrit and Rabindra Singh, aka Singh Twins.
These two determined, non-conformist and humble sisters generously offered their time to answer our questions this month, and we are super excited (and so grateful) to finally feature fellow twins on our blog!
As twins, people expect us to have the same interests and dislike the same things. How are ‘The Singh Twins’ similar, and are they different from one another?
Our moral, social, cultural and political outlook in life is identical - which helps as artists who work so closely together. Since we tend to be inspired, moved, and angered by the same issues, which in turn, influence our goals and the themes we explore as artists. We also share the same taste in art, music and films - none of which we could ever imagine living without! But, as our close friends and family will tell you, there are definite differences in our personalities. Some of which are reflected in our artwork. For example, one of us is much more a perfectionist. The other, more imaginative, or less regimented and constrained when it comes to creating designs and compositions for our paintings. And when it comes to food, one us loves blue cheese, whilst the other one hates it!
What challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis in your artistic ventures?
Having too many ideas and goals and not enough time to develop them! Having to combine the creative side of being an artist with the business side of being an artist – i.e. writing project and funding proposals, responding to emails, updating our websites, dealing with PR and marketing issues, and sales of merchandise etc – which leaves us very little time to paint. On average we probably spend 80% of our time on admin and 20% being creative. Only when a deadline looms are we forced abandon the admin to concentrate on painting.
How do you like to unwind after a long day of pouring your energy into your art?
As we mentioned before, we rarely get a whole day of creative work. So, on the occasions when we do actually have a chance to pour energy into our art for the full day, we are usually up until 1-2 am in the morning. And, then we are so exhausted; we usually have only just enough energy to fall into bed! But, generally, we unwind by watching movies, playing the piano and flute or the odd board game and getting together with friends for a meal.
What’s your motto?
'Success is the best from of revenge’ and ‘Be true to yourself – rather than conforming to how others would have you be’.
How do you stay motivated?
The fact that - despite having overcome many obstacles (largely relating to institutional prejudice within society and contemporary art) to achieve success as artists - there is still a glass ceiling left to break through and more goals to achieve; a determination to prove our critics wrong and make proud those who have believed in our work from day one; a belief in the power of art to stimulate debate and challenge opinion; a desire to be the best we can be and make a difference through our work. And last but not least, a passion for art and being creative. We motivate each other but have also been driven by the support of family and friends.
What makes you feel good?
Family, friends, music, good food (especially Chinese and ice cream!), great movies (especially a classic 50’s musical, or brilliantly crafted fantasies like Lord of the Rings and Tarsem Singh’s The Fall), Rajasthan, Venice, our conservatory on a sunny day!
What’s been your greatest struggle, and how do you generally overcome negative emotions?
Gaining international recognition as Contemporary British artists - despite our art once being considered ‘backward and outdated’ and having ‘no place within Contemporary art practice’ by an Art Establishment that largely defines, evaluates and judges art from a narrow and Euro-centric perspective. We overcome negative emotions by fighting back as a united front, at the causes of them.
Our community encourages us to pursue ‘stable professions’, i.e. medicine/accounting etc. How did your family and friends encourage you to pursue the arts?
Actually, we don’t believe that seeking ‘stable professions’ is unique to our Asian community as we feel most parents – whatever their cultural or ethnic background – would prefer their children to pursue a career more traditionally associated with economic stability, status and the ability to make a good living. But, if you are talking about stereotype views of the Asian community then, we guess, we break the mould. Because, we have always had full support and encouragement from our family and friends. And that support (especially at the beginning) has been vital in enabling us to build a successful career as artists. For example, when we first started out, we were encouraged to concentrate on producing our artwork and not worry about having to support ourselves financially. So, we were not pressured to sell work right away. And, this enabled us to build up a collection of paintings for touring exhibitions, which – through the media coverage they attracted – helped to build our international reputation and establish ourselves.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
In terms of life generally: Our father has always been a great inspiration to us as someone who came to this country in 1948 as a young boy unable to speak a word of English but who, by sheer determination and hard work, overcame racism and prejudice and broke the social norms and class barriers to become a Doctor – the first in his community to do so. We admire people who stand up for what they believe in, or who devote their lives to serving others even in the face of hardship.
In terms of our field of work: We love the art of the Rennaissance, Pre-Raphealites, Art Nouveau and, of course, Mughal Miniature painting which continue to inspire our own style.
Then, there are certain films that have really wowed us - such as Tarsem Singh’s ‘The Fall’, which is such a feast for the ears, eyes and soul. The story is heartwarming, the acting brilliant and the cinematography simply breathtaking. The man is a creative genius! Another creative genius we admire greatly is top Indian fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani whom we had the pleasure of working with in 2014 when he was developing his Singh Twins Spring Summer 15 collection. His talent, passion and drive, is just amazing to see. People with such creative vision and flare as Tarsem and Tarun, who are masters of artistry and at the top of their field, are inspirational because they open other people’s minds up to the possibilities and the fact that there are no boundaries to creativity and success in the creative industries.
What do you think of the term 'starving artist’?
Well, it has a point, since it is very difficult to make a comfortable living from being a full time artist especially in the traditional sense of how the term came about – originally referring to the self-employed artist who relies on selling their art to survive. Or else, who is so obsessed (as the ‘true’ artist is imagined to be!) with the act of creating ‘art for arts sake’ that they have no interested in selling at all.
There is also the view that even for those artists who do mange to establish themselves, it can be a ‘feast or famine’ scenario. So, we would perhaps modify it to ‘sometimes starving artist’. But it’s also an outdated perception of the artists’ lot, since there are many opportunities within the creative industries today that offer full time, employed, paid work with economic stability for artistically talented people.
What advice would you give to the younger generation who want to pursue the arts, but feel discouraged by friends and family?
It depends on why they are being discouraged. We often get emails from young, talented people passionate about art who are being discouraged because their family is worried about their financial stability. Which is understandable. So we advise them based on our own experience. Explaining that it’s not always enough to be passionate and talented in art. That, to succeed as an artist can take time, commitment and funding. That, it requires business planning , a marketing strategy and often funding. That, without family and friends to offer moral and financial support, advice and encouragement, it can be a difficult path to take. Our advice is not aimed at at discouraging them from being an artist but to help them understand their parent’s and friends concerns and to give them information which we hope enables them to make an informed decision.
If someone is still sure that a career in art is what they want (even without the support of their family and friends) then we would suggest in the first instance that maybe they could think about the possibility of developing their artistic interest through one of the many, perhaps more ‘stable’, job opportunities offered within the creative industries - which, in time, might enable them to reach a level of financial independence to support their own art part-time or full time. Basically, an aspiring artist should always a have a plan B!
However, it’s a difficult position to be in and difficult to advise on as we can see both sides of the argument. Our own career as artists, although not without its obstacles and set backs, has by and large been an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience on so many levels. And we feel so lucky to have been able to make a success of what we love doing. But we also know how important the support of family and friends has been to that success. So, whilst one part of us would love to be able to say to young aspiring artists “just go for it”, that wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do – or have their best interests at heart.
What else can we expect from The Singh Twins in the future?
We are currently working in partnership with National Museums Liverpool and The University of Liverpool on a project called ‘Slaves of Fashion’ for which we are creating a new body of work that celebrates India’s pioneering, diverse and global contribution to the manufacturing and trade in textiles over the centuries. And, which also explores interconnected histories around Empire and Colonialism, global conflict, conquest, slavery and luxury lifestyle, and their modern day legacies. This will culminate in a major solo exhibition and associated education program hosted the Walker Art Gallery in 2018.
At the same time, we are looking towards developing a ‘Singh Twins’ label for high-end merchandise including jewelry, fashion accessories and home furnishings etc. inspired by our artwork.
To find out more and keep up-to-date with the Singh Twins, you can follow them on their Twindividual journey: