The Singh Twins

A current exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery was today’s trip out.

The Slaves of Fashion exhibition explores the history of Indian textiles and weaves the story of Empire, slavery and the way consumerism gas impacted on a global scale.

A series of 11 panels tell this story in a stunning way. Each panel is full of symbolism detailing the relationship between Britain and India. Each is displayed on lightboxes, giving a stain glass effect.

This panel, Cotton: Threads of Change shows the link that cotton made between the two countries.

The fact that raw cotton began to be imported in the 19th century where it was made into cheaper cloth and sold back to India meant that the home grown industry could no longer survive.

The panels are a history lesson on their own, but there were also works on paper that were totally thought-provoking and two in particular are worthy of further exploration.

Eating off the same plate (After James Gillray)

This famous caricature of Napoleon and Wiliam Pitt the younger, dividing up the spoils was by James Gillray, a popular satirist of the early nineteenth century. Here, in 1805, Pitt and Napoleon divide the globe between them. The symbolism of the two uniforms echo how the Singh Twins use contemporary iconography to put across their view.

In their version, the tiger is the Indian government sitting down with the wealthy entrepreneur, dividing up India and Africa between them. All around them are quotes about This issue.

Fighting for India

This work, depicting Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel fighting on top of the world. With both the UK and the EU fighting it out for a post-Bexit deal with India, this could not be more topical. All around the image are quotations and headlines by journalists and politicians.

The original, Fighting for the Dunghill from 1798, shows Napoleon lampooned as a half naked, emaciated figure receiving a bloody good hiding from the more robust Jack Tar whose profile has a distinct look of George III about it.

Given George’s reputation as ‘The mad king’, is it a coincidence thag the modern version uses the ex-Foreign Secretary in that role?

Again, the quotations around the edge get to the crux of the matter.

This was my first experience of the twins’ work, and I don’t think it will be last.

Exhibition is on until 16th September.

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