Dr Roopa Patel claims she was one of the earliest tarot practitioners in India. “In 1995, I was the only one to write a column in the Sunday Observer. Back then it was difficult to even pursue the art, since there was no research material available,” she says. Now, 16 years on, Roopa has decided to launch a book on her expertise.
Titled, Experiencing Tarot, the book, through real-life stories, talks about tarot and the art of healing. What sets Roopa’s 350-pager apart is its unique artwork, featuring 22 works by Britain’s miniaturists, The Singh Twins. “The moment the idea of the book came to me, I knew I had to approach the twins. They’ve done a fabulous job with the cards,” says Roopa, who has a collection of over 80 decks of tarot cards from across the world.
Dressed in identical salwar kameez and matching jewellery, the artist duo, Rabinder and Amrit Singh, who call themselves ‘twindividuals’ have been working in tandem since 1980. “It began when we were on a holiday in India. We visited museums there and were just taken away by the beauty of miniatures,” says Amrit.
The two call their identical style a form of protest. Amrit adds, “The west has a twisted form of individualism. People said we lacked it since we liked the same form of art, Our similar outfits was called copycats, but millions wearing jeans -T-shirts were considered individualists.”
The girls, who will recieve the Member of the Order of British Empire this year, confess it hasn’t been so easy. Says Amrit, “We got more criticism than appreciation. Miniatures were considered archaic. Even our teachers said it was outdated. All our attempts to paint intricate works woven with contemporary themes and symbolism were met with scepticism.”
About their latest work, Rabinder confesses she had a limited view. “We thought of tarot as some form of occult. But once we researched and worked as per Roopa’s brief, we found that we could add our symbolism and narrative to tarot cards too,” she says. Ask her if commissioned work limits them as artists and she says, “Not really. But we are interested in the art of tarot now. Who knows we may take it forward for our next exhibition and even feature contemporary figures from politics and films to represent corruption, wealth etc.”