Twinned Star

Preface by Dia VanGunten

Written by Karin and Nil Romano

I am Obsessed with The Black Orchids!

It’s no secret I’m fascinated by identical twins, maybe since being born a Gemini but definitely since starting the Pink Zombie Rose series about ten years ago. I met the Black Orchard Twins through that project—through hashtags like #monosygoticmagic, #sacredtwinship or #telepathictwins. Their paintings express all of that and more. They reveal the profundity of a bond that began in the womb. Like the Gibbons Twins, these two sisters are another pair of identical twins who are collaborators and co-conspirators, but unlike the Gibbons, the Romano Twins have found a way to co-exist.

They do more than co-exist; they co-create, working in tandem to convey a shared vision and laboring over the same painting. They seem to have found the very thing that might’ve saved the Gibbons: PUNK ROCK. 

If only Jennifer and June Gibbons had been like Nil and Karin Romano. What if they had found similar pleasures, acceptance, and lives?

Some of my favorite pieces are the ones that convey the exuberance of rock and roll. There’s a feeling of companionship: they have each other, but they also exist within a larger scene.

They have friends.

They have fun.

Speaking to the Twins

Tell us a little bit about yourselves!

We are Nil and Karin Romano—identical twin sisters, 33 years old, and born and raised in Tel Aviv. We live and create together using four hands, primarily with acrylic and oil paint on large canvas surfaces. We love to go wild with color. We also create black-and-white works using pens or ink on paper. Our father was a lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. He always urged us to attend art academies or institutions, but eventually it pushed us to do the opposite. We are self-taught individuals by nature.

Where did your passion for art begin?

Since we can remember, we have always been attracted to art, aesthetics, and music. At the age of 22, we started DJing in clubs in Israel and Europe (mostly within the Darkwave, Industrial, Techno Acid, and House genres), but despite our passion for music, it felt like there was something missing. After high school, the sense of alienation got stronger and stronger. Because we struggle with major depression, engaging with people has always been a big issue for us. We yearned for something that would fill our lives with meaning and help us to ease the daily pain.

Finally, at the age of 25, we discovered our potential. Painting was the answer. Our four hands became a lethal weapon with twenty fingers. At first, we painted on clothes and patches, then on small pieces of paper. Art, painting, and creation are our ways of connecting to the world and of feeling a sense of belonging.

How did you find out you were artists?

We were always creative and thinking outside the box as children; it was always inside of us, waiting for the right moment to explode. We truly believe that some people are born to be artists, and we believe that this is the case with us; that producing art is our duty to the world and our destiny. Creation burns inside us like flames. We began working intensively on art on a daily basis around nine years ago, after suffering from major depression and mental health issues. Through art, we discovered we have a place in the world where we never really felt like we belonged.

Do you both work on every painting? Is your process simultaneous?

Before we begin painting, we usually sit together and try to think of a new topic. After brainstorming, we immediately create some sketches where we try to combine both of our ideas. Sometimes we can come up with a few ideas and a general topic we would like to paint, and sometimes we have little fights on the final presentation, but eventually we agree. Then we start working diligently for several days until we finish the painting. For our black-and-white paintings that require an extremely high level of concentration, we calculate and carefully analyse the motifs and shapes. On the other hand, with color paintings, we let ourselves get more intuitive. We always try to paint together because when we paint separately, we feel the piece is incomplete. When we paint together, we become one; we feel more satisfied; we feel complete.

How would you describe your work to someone?

Conceptually, our art is very feminine. Our characters are mostly female, androgenic, or queer. Sometimes we paint ourselves in intimate situations with regard to the twin bond we share. Thematically, most of our works focus on an intense relationship and the bond between individuals who try to survive and exist in a chaotic, destructive, and threatening world. In order to survive, our characters perform rituals of any kind. In terms of technique, a conventional perspective is not a pattern we feel committed to. Objects and figures often merge with each other, creating a visual deception.

What are you working on currently?

At the moment, we are working on a series of drawings and paintings that focus on queer relationships, as well as a body of drawings that capture loneliness as a form of escapism.

About the Artists, By the Artists

Nil and Karin Romano are twin female painters based in Tel Aviv. They work primarily with acrylic and oil paint on large canvas surfaces, creating in harmony and complementing one another. However, they do not restrict themselves to a particular medium; they also create works using pen or ink on paper. Their use of strong and bold colours, together with the dark, surrealistic scenes that unfold throughout their paintings, capture the viewer’s eye and imagination. For the artists, each work is an opportunity to tell a story about their inner world. 

Fundamentally, their creative interests revolve around the complexity of the human soul and its emotions, and they communicate these notions through motifs such as chaos, ritualism, and nihilism. Such ideas resulted from a long period of depression and, therefore, isolation from society. In their words, “Being introverts by nature, we found in art a way to communicate our messages to the world.” Their works are mutual and simultaneous, and their style is intense, ritualistic, and cult-like, dealing with beliefs and religion, female relationships, the occult, symbolism, queer relationships, magic, and the power of emotions. The Romanos often use themselves as a reference to create imaginative female characters, something particularly visible through their black-and-white series of drawings.

This particular series of works is a spectacular fantasy in four hands. The pen-and-ink drawings are the result of a harmonious collaboration between these two autodidactic artists. Their attention to detail has yielded crowded drawings teeming with situations and occurrences, creating a full and explosive kaleidoscope of images, animals, furniture, and architectural items reflecting off one another and shattering in the mirrors mounted on the sides. Each drawing contains an inner space built in a different architectural style—either modern, baroque, or nouveau. In some cases, the space can be identified: the interior of a synagogue, a temple, a bedroom. Yet often, the constructed architecture bursts out into nature. The space strays beyond the walls, and its dimensions are unclear and do not conform to any rules. The perspective battles with the flatness that has been forced upon it.

The most outstanding element is the symmetry. Almost every work has a clear midpoint line, a central event stage that balances the right side of the drawing with the left. In psychology, symmetry is associated with obsession and narcissism. These works serve the artists as a form of correction, a way to relate to one another, and a way to achieve a balance between the chaotic and the psychedelic.

Each piece is laden with many details that call for examination. The elements inspire a sense of ritual: various religious symbols alongside witches and black magic; an abundance of accessories and props—masks, umbrellas, chains, lamps, and candles; an assortment of animals, such as turtles, bats, rabbits, pheasants, shellfish, and snakes; and imaginary hybrid creatures. In between, the human figures stand out, first and foremost duplications of the twin artists’ faces and bodies alongside other female figures with flowing hair, naked or dressed in ceremonial attire. All are in motion, symbiotic, and powerful in their appearance.

Nil and Karin Romano invite the viewer into their world—a super-human world of dreams that is larger than life and offers a hypnotic and multi-sensual experience.

While self-taught, the Romano sisters have developed a unique style of painting that has attracted the interest of international art collectors. They have exhibited their works in both solo and group exhibitions with other emerging and well-known artists.

About the Authors

Nil and Karin Romano are twin painters based in Tel Aviv.

Watch this interview.

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