Old paintings, childhood drawings and Barbie dolls are just some of the raw materials used in the multidisciplinary works of the Cameron Twins, an identical duo of creatives whose garish art playfully explores dreams, the imagination, and the role that nostalgia plays in shaping our lives.
Made up of Abigail and Phebe Cameron, the Cameron Twins are London-based artists who recently graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in Fine Arts. Inspired by the likes of Rachel Maclean, fellow collaborative artists Gilbert and George, Jamie Andrews, Jeff Koons and Mike Kelley, they have already got their career off to a flying start with a solo exhibition in Leicester and a re-exhibit lined up for May 2022 in Kent.
Working across screen print, digital montage, photography, casting, sculpture and installation, the work of the Cameron Twins leans into a strong, garish aesthetic that plays with a bright and oversaturated colour palette. The result is a surreal juxtaposition of child-like naivety and chaotic imagery.
And by using scraps from their childhood to create their work, the Cameron Twins feel as if they are collaborating with their past selves. "This process acts as a visual conduit to our own past and childhood memories, and creates a shared sense of nostalgia that we express in our practice," the Twins explain. "The print process is very important in our practice as it allows us to explore repetition, doubling and mirroring in our work, which relates to our personal experience as twins, and also to create a strange, unsettling quality."
Part of the appeal of screen printing for the Cameron Twins is that the outcomes are often imperfect. The technique is somewhat uncontrollable and results in minor errors, which is a key quality of their work as it helps to create a "fun, child-like or primitive" characteristic.
On top of this, the Cameron Twins add: "Our practice is interested in incorporating recognisable, fun images and pop culture references from our childhood, such as Barbie, Trolls and My Little Pony. We enjoy using this popular imagery in our sculptures and prints as they add a playful and witty quality to the work."
Don't let the colours and presence of toys deceive you, though. The work of the Cameron Twins is not as wholesome as you may assume. Sinister tones and darker imagery are constantly lurking beneath the surface of their art, and under closer inspection, these elements reveal themselves to the viewer. The use of flashy colours only serves to underline how striking these hidden meanings actually are.
Take, for example, a bright and cheerful teddy bear who is casually holding a skull, the disfigured dolls which have extra limbs growing out of the top of their heads, or the print of a baby doll that has hauntingly had its eye obliterated. "We like to use unexpected, sometimes shocking, images and forms hidden within our child-like and naive aesthetic," the pair reveals.
"This is a theme within both our printmaking and sculptural practice, raising questions about the effect of nostalgia on people's own past experiences and memories and what might or might not lie just beneath the surface."
As for their sculptures, old, discarded toys are reclaimed and used to create new 'toys' which merge childhood memories and recognisable objects in an unsettling way. And even though these toys are "visually playful, having an overall bright, balloon-like, happy appearance", there's no denying that they fall within the disturbing realm of the uncanny valley.
The Cameron Twins do not use these nostalgic elements and bright colours for a cheap thrill, though. They are sincerely passionate about their methods because they are "intuitively and impulsively" drawn to them, especially in their post-Covid life.
"We feel this is a good way of connecting with people, believing if it makes us happy, we hope it will make others happy."