EnTWlNed: Contemporary Miniatures By The Singh Sisters
Glasgow: Gallery Of Modern Art, until Mon 24 Apr
Amrit and Rabindra Singh are twins. From their silver earrings to their matching shalwar kameez, the 33- year-olds from the Wirral dress identically. It's not a mere gimmick: the Singh sisters have thought carefully for many years about their role as young artists from a non- European tradition and about the 'twin thing'. What they have come up with is a full-on yet playful challenge to Western ideas about individualism. Amrit and Rabindra will never starve in a garret, living, as they do, with their extended family. They don't even have their own studio. ’We just move the snooker table,’ explains Amrit. 'Luckily our work is miniatures.‘
The miniature paintings the twins produce are exquisitely detailed jewels documenting the minutiae of everyday life. From the crowd at a Liverpool home game, to daily life in their own family and Sikh customs and celebrations, their art is witty and humane. Using traditional miniature techniques of the subcontinent. their paintings record the rich texture of contemporary Britain: cameras, aeroplanes, advertising and Christmas dinners.
The twins started out studying both art and comparative religion.
Indian Summer at Dhigpal Nivas by Rabindra and Amrit Singh
They had always envisaged that they would end up as academics, but somewhere along the way their paintings took over. Art school was a particularly difficult time for them, but it spurred them on to follow their own interests. 'In response to the pressures we felt as art students,’ says Rabindra, 'we started developing our art as a backlash against it. Our initial starting point were the great Victorian illustrated books that we were brought up with, like The Arabian Nights. And when we went to India in 1980, it opened up a whole new tradition for us.’
The twins' work takes elements of those childhood influences - including Art Nouveau and icon paintings - and filters them through the lens of the great tradition of
Indian miniature painting. 'There weren’t teachers who could pass on these skills in Britain.’ says Amrit. 'It was basically a case of studying from books and going to museums.‘
The twins' work. like their traditional dress, arises from a desire to emphasise the key values of Asian culture in modern Britain. 'We like to draw a line between influence and assimilation.’ says Rabindra. 'Most of the pressure at school as a young Asian is to change your identity to fit into the white community or what your friends are doing. We started this work to show that there is another side. You can live quite happily in two worlds and be selective about what you take on board from each.’ (Moira Jeffrey)
Dressed For The Woods by Nicola ﬂicks
Glasgow: Gallery Of Modern Art, until 30 Jan Mkﬁ
It is a strange world, but not quite strange enough. Cat-like creatures wear what appear to be crinolines and thick- set human-bodied figures have the heads of dogs or rabbits. There is a rawness, an earthiness in the rough and ready appearance of the plaster and straw sculptures, but they leave you wanting.
Nicola Hicks’s sculpture and drawings fill the Air Gallery at Glasgow's Gallery Of Modern Art, where their menace is somewhat diluted by the light and bright space. Hicks's figures, one imagines, inhabit a twilight and muddy territory; here, however, they stand in a chilled-white gallery and are clearly not at home. On a plinth, stomach-down, lies a female figure with the head of a rabbit. Her backside is raised - as if she is about to do a press-up; but stronger than the feeling that the figure might be about to break into a exercise
routine, is a brooding mood of sexual submission. Oddly, even with the current trend to make exhibition labels more ‘interpretative’, the label for Sweetie (the name of this recumbent rabbit-woman) informs us that 80% of Hicks's male friends found it the most erotic thing they had ever seen. An odd bit of interpretation of Hicks's mates, if anything.
Elsewhere is a circle of catwomen. Sweet-faced things, they could have escaped from the pages of Beatrix Potter. One stands alone. Red in colour, this is the catwoman who wants the cream. Another figure is Wo/fie Baby. A broad-shoulder beast of man, he stands with his arms outstretched and has an erect penis. Now I wonder if Hicks’s female friends find him a picture of eroticism? Interestingly, the writer Will Self has viewed Hicks’s work and was inspired to write The Camel That Broke The Straw’s Back. A muddy romp of a short story, he was clearly taken with Sweetie. (Susanna Beaumont)
Edinburgh: Edinburgh College of Art until Mon 29 Nov *‘k‘k
Quiet and unassuming, Elizabeth Motlow's photograms are studies of nature. Blackberries, leaves and flower heads are shown as fragile still-lives. Whether the skeletal-like framework of a leaf or the silhouetted form of a blackberry, her work records the everyday stuff of hedgerows that so frequently goes unobserved.
Motlow is based in Tennessee and uses the platinum palladium process to make her photograms. She places her chosen sprig on light-sensitive paper, stores it in a darkened space for varying length of time spanning from a day to a year, then develops the image by placing it in sunlight. The developed results, in various shades of brown and patterned with foliage, pay homage to nature. (Susanna Beaumont)
Joanne Tatham and
Glas ow: Bulkhead 24-Hour Viewing Win ow until Fri 3 Dec ***
Window dressing: detail of Tatham and O'Sullivan's installation
Bulkhead’s 24-hour window usually gives its audience a chance to look at something, no matter how late or early the hour. This time the process has been reversed, and travelling up Glasgow’s High Street, you quickly become aware of something looking at you. From this innocuous shop front, dozens of eyes are peering out at passers by. Get closer and your own face is reflected back at you in mirrors, while a television blasting out interference stares at you without blinking.
Vivid, monochrome and not a little sinister, this installation by Joanne Tatham and Tom O‘Sullivan makes the process of looking come alive. You are drawn to it, then unexpectedly discover that you become the object of scrutiny this time. Drawing on a favourite image of the Surrealists, it reminds you that, when it comes to the gaze, the eyes have it. (Moira Jeffrey)
l8 Nov—2 Dec 1999 THE "8193