Slaves of fashion: New works by the Singh Twins
An exciting new collaboration between Wolverhampton Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool and Creative Black Country sees hit exhibition Slaves of Fashion: New Works by The Singh Twins head to the city this month.
From current debates around ethical trade and consumerism through to satirical political portraits, the artists’ latest body of work, that recently featured on the BBC’s Civilisations stories: The Empire, offers an exploration of the history of trade in Indian textiles as a global story of Empire, conflict, enslavement and luxury lifestyle that has modern day parallels.
Combining the traditional hand-painted techniques for which the artists are renowned, with digitally created imagery, the life-sized portraits of historical figures are packed with symbolic detail. Each digital fabric artwork highlights a different theme relating to the global story of trade in Indian textiles. Collectively they reveal not only the beauty and craftsmanship of Indian fabrics but also the interconnected political, social and cultural significance of their histories.
Central to one of the exceptional portraits, Cotton:Threads of Change, is British-born Indian Princess and leading Suffragette, Sophia Duleep Singh whose personal life connects to the complex narrative of cotton, as part of the wider story of trade in textiles and Empire built on conquest and enslavement.
The Singh Twins comment: “A key aim of Slaves of Fashion is to reveal how historical trade practices, linked to colonialism, conflict and enslavement which are looked back on as unethical today, actually still continue.
In relation to current debates around fair trade and sustainable consumerism the artworks highlight how we as consumers are all part of the problem but also the solution, since we have the power to effect positive change through the choices we make.”
A further nine artworks in the series explore how historical narratives connect to current debates around ethical trade and legacies of Empire.
These include portraits of politicians Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump which draw on the tradition of satirical cartoons. The King is Dead: Long Live the King (featuring Donald Trump, enthroned on a catwalk) explores how colonial attitudes and labour exploitation associated with the historical trade in cotton, lives on in today’s fashion industry.
Marguerite Nugent, Wolverhampton Art Gallery Manager for Arts and Culture, said, “The Singh Twins have a well-deserved international reputation and we are delighted to have the opportunity to show their latest work in the City of Wolverhampton.
It has been an exciting collaboration with The Singh Twins, National Museums Liverpool and Creative Black Country to work together and make this exhibition possible for locals, residents and other visitors to see.”
An audio-visual poem by The Singh Twins offers a further, artistic response to the interconnected Slaves of Fashion themes.
The exhibition runs at Wolverhampton Art Gallery from Saturday, July 21 until Sunday, September 16.
This exhibition is a collaboration between National Museums Liverpool, The Singh Twins, and the University of Liverpool. Slaves of Fashion: New Works by The Singh Twins has been developed in partnership with Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Creative Black Country. The exhibition is sponsored by Investec Wealth & Investment.