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Black Blossoms x Art on the Underground Course IIII: Endurance: A Vision of Resilience in a Precarious World

Endurance: A Vision of Resilience in a Precarious World is a new four week course from Black Blossoms and Art on the Underground expanding on the work of artist Shanti Panchal and his artwork for Brixton Underground station. The course will explore how images of resilient communities can intersect with hostile political landscapes. Participants will learn about artist Shanti Panchal’s painting practice and the key themes of interdependency and exile which underpin his work.

The course will also discuss Shanti Panchal’s mural in Shadwell from 1984 commissioned by the Greater London Council (GLC) as part of its Anti-Racist Mural Programme. Thinking through the history and context for mural making particularly in London.

Endurance: A Vision of Resilience in a Precarious World is taught by Curator and Writer Amrita Dhallu and responds to Shanti Panchal’s 2022 Art on the Underground commission, ‘Endurance’, a community portrait which observes our continued resilience and reliance on each other.

Tuesday 26 September 2022 – 24 October 2022 (please note there will be a break on 10 October)

Time: 6.30-7:45pm

Free. Online. Book here.

Courses were delivered live on Zoom and to create an interactive teaching environment, learning material was provided to registered participants prior to each class. Participants can access the learning platform on the Black Blossom’s website which includes the recordings of the live lectures and learning material for 90 days after the last live class.

For full information on the weekly sessions and to access learning material, please visit Black Blossoms’ website here.

Educator: Amrita Dhallu 

Amrita Dhallu is a curator and researcher based in London. She provides support structures for emerging British artists through commissioning, editorial projects, creating artistic networks and intergenerational learning spaces. Her current research examines ‘care’, spatial politics and ethno-futurist discourse within exhibition-making. She is Assistant Curator, International Art at Tate Modern, London, where she co-curated Lubaina Himid’s monographic exhibition (2021-2) and worked on projects such as Rasheed Araeen’s Zero to Infinity (2023) and Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life (2023).

Barby Asante

This September, Art on the Underground will present a newly commissioned iteration of Barby Asante’s seminal performative work Declaration of Independence. The performance, taking place at Stratford Tube station at 2pm on Sunday 17 September, will be accompanied by a series of visual artworks situated at Stratford, Bethnal Green and Notting Hill Tube stations.

Declaration of Independence reflects on how declarations, policies and legislations impact our everyday lives. The ongoing project, by London-based artist Barby Asante, brings together women and non-binary people of colour and acknowledges how they are often at the forefront of struggles for equity and social justice.

For this iteration of the work, Art on the Underground have invited Asante to collaborate with TfL employees in a series of workshops to produce a collective script, a new Declaration of Independence for 2023, which will be performed to an audience of thousands this September at Stratford Tube station.

This collaborative, performative and dialogic work will be Asante’s first major commission in public space and will centre TfL employees through a collective process of sharing and learning. A recurrent form and key concept within the work is the circle, as drawn from West Africancommuning traditions. Asante’s circle provides space for dialogue amongst the performers and audiences, to commune, witness, share knowledge, and imagine futures that foreground equity and social justice. By telling their stories, and sharing experiences through performance, the work explores the potential to question existing dominant narratives, reflecting on how the political affects the personal.

As part of this new commission Asante spent time in the photography archives at the London Transport Museum to find images of women of colour at work in different roles across TfL’s history. These found images, including those employed by London Transport’s direct recruitment in Barbados in 1956, are part of the group’s collective process, adding to individual narratives and
enriching the artwork’s examination of postcolonial and migration histories. These archive images also form part of three large-scale visual artworks that will be installed at Stratford, Bethnal Green and Notting Hill Green Tube stations, in which the images are placed in dialogue with words from the ‘Declaration’. Produced on vinyl, these pieces will be set within brightly coloured interconnected shapes and lines, forming new speculative constellations and communicating ideas about histories and futures in a collective voice. Central to this artwork is the development of ways to create and occupy space; installed within touching distance alongside station escalators, and above the Stratford Tube station ticket hall, the previously personal and intimate ‘Declaration’ is propelled onto the public stage.

Alongside the TfL staff participating in the project, Asante invites ongoing collaborators into the development of the work. These include artist and musician, Hannah Catherine Jones; sociologist and Black Feminist, Gail Lewis; psychotherapist and writer Foluke Taylor; artist Baby Blue and
visual artist and music selecta, Innavisions.

Together, the newly written and performed declaration and station artworks foreground black diaspora narratives of non-binary people and women. The work specifically highlights the histories and divisions of labour that have impacted these narratives, capturing the scale and value of this work to London. ‘Declaration’ retells stories of domestic and workplace labour connecting these to wider histories of migration as a legacy of colonialism. The performance demonstrates the importance of collective thinking; by holding public space ‘Declaration’ gives voice to personal narratives and shapes future intentions.

Shenece Oretha: Route Words


Art on the Underground is pleased to present a new sound artwork by London-based artist Shenece Oretha. The work has been developed over a period of collaboration and community engagement, working with the Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme (CCSaR), New Beacon Books, Rumi’s Cave and The RecordShop.

This new commission will be heard in London Underground spaces and in the communities near the stations through live performances, listening events and as an online audio. The amplification of voices, accessible through this range of listening experiences, invites space for celebration and reflection.

Please join us for a live listening of the work plus poetry readings from collaborators involved on Thursday 10 August 11:30am-12:30pm at Finsbury Park Underground Station – City North Place exit/entrance.

The work titled Route Words: Where are our voices aloud? centres on Britain’s oldest Black bookshop and publisher, New Beacon Books, based in Finsbury Park. The work draws on New Beacon’s publications’ catalogue, showcasing writing that speaks to the importance of space and language, to a range of communities, their histories and collective futures. The sound piece weaves together extracts from the texts of Erna Brodber, Lorna Goodison, John la Rose, Kamau Brathwaite and Dennis Mitchell to demonstrate the collective force of  word and voice. The work seeks to mobilise and engage people through speaking to the cultural history of the collective voice within New Beacon Books legacy.

The artist’s relationship with New Beacon Books has been extended to conversations with social space Rumi’s Cave in Brent, which is inspired by the legacy of 13th Century poet Jalauddin Rumi, and recording studio The RecordShop in Wood Green, which works with young people. The collaboration between these groups is a joint connection to spaces where words and voice are central to their community formation, purpose and ongoing work. 

These spaces are actively supported by the CCSaR programme and have been invited to read from the score and contribute layers of story, poetry and sound to the work. The range of contributors highlights the voice’s role in advocacy and the importance of exchange and mutual support across these spaces in London. The contributing poets and musicians are Imruh Bakari, Margaret Busby, Greta Dapkute, Rakaya Fetuga, Sagal Gabay, Olivia Opara, Glaiza Padulla, Mary Otumahana aka WondRWomN, JAGO XYEN and Belinda Zhawi

The work will be shared through a poster campaign across the Tube network with a QR code allowing customers to listen to the audio and experience it on their journeys. In addition to this listening experience Finsbury Park Underground station, closest to New Beacon Books, will host a series of special performances from the collaborating poets, writers and musicians. These performances will allow travellers to experience the power of words and recitation to create a communal space. 

This work marks a new strand of collaborative community engagement and art commissioning for Art on the Underground. It is the start of a series of sound commissions developed through an engagement with the CCSaR programme and the communities around Underground stations to spotlight the work of organisations who face structural barriers to sustaining space in the capital and to create and share resonances from them across the city. 

The work was recorded at The Recordshop, Wood Green with Sound Engineer Keir McCabe.

Text extracts from New Beacon Books publications include:
Myal – Erna Brodber
History  of The Voice – Kamau Braithwaite
Eyelets of Truth Within Me – John La Rose
Dreadwalk – Dennis Scott
Heartease – Lorna Goodison

With additional support from Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant

Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily

Monster Chetwynd combines historic references, theatrical aesthetics, and popular culture to tell stories that reflect on society and morality. Her installation, Pond Life: Albertopolis and the Lily, reveals the entwined histories of Gloucester Road station and the vast programme of cultural redevelopment that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park.

Through her research into Gloucester Road and the local area Monster Chetwynd became fascinated by the giant Amazonian waterlily. This plant was the inspiration behind gardener-turned-architect Joseph Paxton’s pioneering design for the Crystal Palace, the building which housed the Great Exhibition. Paxton based the structure on the waterlily’s elaborate network of ribbed veins, creating a modular, kit-form design which paved the way for successive public buildings and revolutionised architecture. Revenue from tickets to the Great Exhibition provided capital for the construction of the museums situated along Exhibition Road, these new developments created a cultural destination known as ‘Albertopolis’.

At Gloucester Road Tube station, Chetwynd creates a series of five 4-metre diameter disc-shaped sculptures along the length of a disused platform. Each sculpture is populated with creatures – beetles, dragonfly larvae, tadpoles and tortoises – that appear to be constructing sections of the Crystal Palace. They show the underwater life of the submerged lily pads, their spiny network of veins playing host to the industrious wildlife. Rather than stepping down into the tunnels of the London Underground it is as if the viewer has stepped beneath the surface of the water, into a subterranean simulation of the Amazon. A freestanding salamander, holding an Amazonian lily pad as a parasol, is an anthropomorphic addition to this scene of amphibian industry. The sculptures reference the commemorative coins, medallions and souvenirs that were created to commemorate the Great Exhibition, as well as the array of terracotta animal sculptures that decorate the exterior walls and vaulted galleries of the Natural History Museum.

A trailer for a new film by Monster Chetwynd, Who named the Lily? is also on view in the station. It celebrates and laments the complicated history of the Crystal Palace. Chetwynd plays the ‘Fact Hungry Witch’, who explores the story of the Amazonian waterlily, and reveals its links to engineering. Shot on 35mm film by artist-filmmaker Margaret Salmon at locations including Chatsworth House, The London Transport Museum and the Natural History Museum. It features a cast of performers, including the historian and broadcaster, Adam John Hart-Davis and a group of young people from FAT studio, a community-led initiative based at London’s Old Kent Road. The artwork brings to light the politics of Paxton’s developments in industry and architecture; however, the protagonist of this story is the waterlily – a catalyst for ground-breaking technological advancement.

Monster Chetwynd has also devised an interactive detective hunt, aimed at families at South Kensington, the ‘Fact Hungry Witch’ invites participants to find clues hidden in her seven poster artworks situated along the South Kensington pedestrian tunnel.

Chetwynd’s commission for Art on the Underground builds on the artist’s track record of creating public artworks that engage broad and varied audiences through evocative references and an uplifting, irreverent sense of fun.

Come Out, Come Out

Art on the Underground presents a new artwork for Holland Park station and the 38th pocket Tube map by American artist Sharon Hayes.

Sharon Hayes’s new artwork celebrates the history of LGBTQ+ activism through UK newspaper archives. ‘Come Out, Come Out’, Hayes new artwork invites its audience to hold space to ‘come out’ and be together, in protest, in celebration, in resistance, in solidarity, in fragility and in strength.

Hayes uses video, performance, sound, public sculpture, and textiles to disentangle prevailing histories and examine the intersections between time, politics, and speech. Hayes’s multidisciplinary practice engages with feminist history, LGBTQ+ genealogies and the transformative power of language.

Inspired by historic protest events and banners, ‘Come Out, Come Out’ assembles fragments of newspaper cuttings marking major events in the history of UK LGBTQ+ activism. Using the back of a fabric banner as a platform for an improvisational collage, the backward slogans, ‘Come Out, Come Out’ and ‘Come Out’, reflect on the dynamic temporalities of activism and its distribution into the public sphere. Hayes’s work for the pocket Tube map cover is extended at Holland Park Tube station to include four additional artworks which alternate between the slogans and vibrant colour backgrounds along the exterior of the station.

Always seen in reverse, Hayes’s artwork banners invites the viewer to imagine being stood behind them, as though the banners are being held up or seen in a rear-view mirror, a reflection of the past as we look to the future. The legibility of the reversed lettering emerges gradually, allowing for a slower consideration of the words and their meanings. As the words come into view, the viewer is reminded of the multiple meanings of ‘coming out’ – an act of self-identity, an invitation to community, a collective force of resistance and celebration.

‘Come Out, Come Out’ is part of a series of banners created by Hayes, which are inspired by an encounter she had in a feminist archive. Handling a protest banner from the 1970s, she noticed that newspapers had stuck to the back of the banner’s fabric created a reverse imprint of the painted slogan, an accidental time stamp of the banner’s creation and the news of that time. This process has been replicated in this new work for the Pocket Tube map.

Hayes is interested in the power of language and its differing visual, sonic and emotional registers as it is disseminated and re-disseminated across time and space. The phrase ‘come out’ was first used by the LGBTQ+ community in the 1950s in reference to ‘coming out’ into gay society, self-disclosing one’s sexuality or gender identity. It has since been used more widely by LGBTQ+ communities and other social justice movements to communicate and celebrate self-identity as a means of galvanising solidarity and support and reducing isolation.

The newspaper cuttings that appear in the artwork include: a profile of Black gay activist Ted Brown, former member of the Gay Liberation Front who co-organised a gay ‘kiss-in’ at the first official Pride march in London in 1972, historic articles on ‘stop the clause’ protests against the section 28, a law enacted in 1988 and repealed in 2000/03, preventing any UK school or local authority from making positive statements about same-sex relationships, profiles of the past 50 years of Pride in London, celebrations of Black LGBTQ+ history and a story about LGBT Syrian refugees celebrating their first pride in London in 2021. Using collage to de-frame and reframe historical moments of LGBTQ+ activism, Hayes reveals how resistance and our common understandings of it, circulate through intimate reencounters, both radical and mundane.

The artwork at Holland Park Tube station resonates with the LGBTQ+ history of the local area. In the early 1970s, the Gay Liberation Front held ‘Gay Days’ in Holland Park, a precursor to Pride celebrations. Across the road from the station, 27 Holland Park Avenue was the site of ‘Lady Austin’s’ famous drag balls in the 1930s, where people could safely gather to celebrate and experiment with gender expression and sexuality. The gatherings were hosted by the ostentatious Lady Austin, a 24-year-old barman called John P. Information about the events was spread with flyers through a network of hospitality employees across London. In 1932, one ball was subject to a police raid and the organisers were sentenced to imprisonment. Upon being arrested, Lady Austin reportedly asked, ‘What harm are we doing? You don’t understand our love’. These events and other legacies of LGBTQ+ activism in London are vital to preserve and maintain in our contemporary moment.

Through ‘Come Out, Come Out’, Hayes explores the historical registers of language and is a timely reminder that holding space to come out – in resistance and in joy – is our most powerful collective act.

Zadie Xa: Aldgate East

Art on the Underground with Whitechapel Gallery present ‘Griffin and Guardian’ and ‘Underworlds Connect’, two new public artworks at Aldgate East Underground station by London based Canadian-Korean artist Zadie Xa. Launching 21 March 2023 and on view for one year, this new work focuses on mythologies and the history of the Tube environment, in dialogue with her solo exhibition at the neighbouring Whitechapel Gallery titled House Gods, Animal Guides and Five Ways 2 Forgiveness which runs until 30 April 2023.

The research for this new work at the eastern exit/entrance of Aldgate East is also inspired by the mythical griffin, which was used as an official symbol by London Transport from 1933 until the late 1950s. The griffin features on the tiles at Aldgate East station and was the work of designer and craftsman Harold Stabler (1872–1945) who designed a series of 18 bespoke embossed tiles that are interspersed along the platform level walls.

The resulting two paintings, reproduced for Aldgate East in vinyl, are titled ‘Underworlds Connect’ and ‘Griffin and Guardian’. The artworks present two scenes of animals acting as guardians or portals at the station entrance. Xa’s work often uses the presence of tigers, foxes and seagulls as animal guides, disrupters or tricksters to lead us or inspire new journeys, as embodiments of ecological, political and social shifts.

‘Griffin and Guardian’ reimagines the TfL griffin as a seagull and fox hybrid, two everyday London creatures taking the place of the majestic lion and eagle. This new griffin appears with a haetae, a Korean mythological animal and both stand like custodians or guards of the station. For Xa this new griffin shifts the power status of the original symbol to a more day-to-day contemporary emblem. The fox/seagull griffin is aligned to how she and many Londoners manoeuvre around the city and negotiate London as a social and economically complex place.

The second work, ‘Underworlds Connect’, shows a three eyed white tiger stepping out of a conch shell echoing the evocation of an animal guide into a portal or entrance way.  Conch shells are often used in Xa’s work, representing a time travelling device, a communication receptor and a home. The conch and the third eye of the tiger are used as mythical visual references; to Xa they suggest time travel, speculative futures, pasts and worlds. The work asks us to consider how we learn from multiples places and times, live in between them and forge newness. This connects to how Xa’s work often explores the multiple narratives within hybrid and diasporic identity.

In both works there are wave-like cloud paths representing the tube tunnel systems or other pathways of journeying, cosmic or urban. These backgrounds draw on Xa’s sense of travelling under the city as some type of interstellar time travel, as passengers sit in capsules speeding through the known and unknown.

Barby Asante

A new artwork poster for London Underground stations on display from 6 March 2023, marks the start of a new commission titled Declaration of Independence, an ongoing project by London based artist Barby Asante.

Throughout spring and summer 2023 Asante will collaborate with workers at Transport for London on a new iteration of this seminal performative artwork, to create a new Declaration of Independence. This process will build up to a performance at Stratford Underground station in September 2023, with visual outcomes at Stratford, Bethnal Green and Notting Hill Gate.

Declaration of Independence brings together a group of Black and POC women and non-binary people into a space for conversation, writing, collective thinking, ritual and re-enactment towards a collective public performance.

Through a process of dialogue and writing, performative declarations are created that reveal stories, dreams and forgotten histories to articulate and imagine strategies and possibilities in a collective ritual of declaration.

Asante says: “We come together to reflect on how the political affects the personal and how cultural implications of historic declarations, policies and legislations impact on their lives; to consider the possibilities for collective actions for the future and to rethink our understanding of monumental moments in world history such as declarations of independence.”

The process of this project will also draw on research into the TfL photography archives connecting histories of black and non-white women workers to our current moment to reflect on how histories also inform the present.

This collaborative, performative and dialogic work will be Asante’s first major commission in public space and will draw on her ongoing commitment to the politics of place, space, memory and drawing on her research with Akan Adrinka symbology and principles to consider ways to undo the persistent legacies of coloniality.

2023 Programme Announcement

Art on the Underground’s programme for 2023 comprises ambitious and critically engaged new works. Responding to London Underground as a constantly changing site of multiple histories, communities, actions and reactions, the 2023 programme will present new works that address this daily reality through performance, sound, visual and sculptural interventions.

Art on the Underground is committed to working with a diverse range of contemporary artists to reflect on how we move through and have a collective experience of public space. How might an artwork point to, embody and be a part of these conversations? What does it mean to encounter this work in public space? Art on the Underground continue to interrogate these questions, bringing leading international artists to the city to reflect London’s diversity.

Art on the Underground’s 2023 programme features major commissions situated across London including:

  • A major project with British artist and Turner Prize nominee Monster Chetwynd along the 60 metre long disused platform at Gloucester Road station on 18 May 2023.
  • Barby Asante will develop her seminal work ‘Declaration of Independence’, with a major performance in September 2023 at Stratford station
  • For his first international public commission, Italian artist Jem Perucchini will create a new artwork for Brixton station in November 2023.
  • American artist Sharon Hayes will create a new artwork for Holland Park station and the 38th pocket Tube map.
  • The launch of a series of artist-led collaborations with the Mayor’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team, bringing new audio works to the city. The first commission in the summer of 2023 will be with Shenece Oretha.
  • Canadian-Korean artist Zadie Xa will create new work for Aldgate East Tube station in March 2023 which focuses on the mythologies of the Tube environment, in dialogue with her installation at the neighbouring The Whitechapel Gallery.
  • British artist and photographer Joy Gregory will create new commissions for the pocket Tube Map.

Newbury Park: A Space Less Ordinary

This exhibition of artworks at Newbury Park Underground station marks the first in a new series of curatorial collaborations between Art on the Underground and TfL station colleagues. The programme is a way to collectively generate new artwork displays in stations and install artwork produced by members of London Underground’s Operational team.

‘Newbury Park: A Space Less Ordinary’ is a series of photographs by Robert Bassett that manipulate scenes of the iconic London Underground, specifically at Newbury Park Underground station – the trains, the station architecture, and the neighbouring bus station.

The artworks presented here playfully turn architecture into spaceship forms and distort familiar station spaces with shadows and colour filters to create speculative new future worlds and scenes – an experimental filter and understanding on the ordinary.

This new series of artwork exhibits is a way to generate new perspectives into everyday public space through artworks created by those working in stations daily, stimulating creativity and creating new collaborations and affinities with people and places.

Robert Bassett is an artist and musician who has worked at TfL for 25 years. Currently working as a Customer Station Supervisor at Newbury Park these photographs reimagine the station through a highly saturated and often futuristic-like lens. The everyday workplace becomes transformed through abstraction. By maximising colour and repeating and distorting form and shape, these images explore a new sense of place from the perspective of operational work at the station. The process of producing these images takes place at all hours and encompasses the changes to perspective that shift work can bring.

About his work, Robert said: “I’m excited to see them on display and interested in hearing what people will make of them. I hope it will help to brighten customers’ day a little and get them thinking about something different on their journey.”

Art on the Underground Staff Writer in Residence at St James's Park

 ‘Stooped in Courage’ is the second poem from the Art on the Underground Writer in Residence Ayesha Kundi. The writing is inspired by two temporary artworks exhibited in London Underground stations: Rhea Storr at Heathrow T4, Notting Hill Gate, Bethnal Green and Stratford Underground stations and Shanti Panchal at Brixton Underground station.

 ‘Stooped in Courage’ is installed on the platform of St James’s Park Underground Station as an artwork poster, launched November 24th 2022 and on view for one year.

The poem addresses identity and personal belonging in public space – how bodies are read, how we feel and the social and political pressure on diasporic experience and visibility in the UK.

Ayesha Kundi is a London-based writer, artist and social media creator and has worked as a Customer Service Assistant for 7 years at Tfl. Ayesha’s work is inspired by her personal experiences, her passion for reading, contemporary art forms and a deep love for her cultural heritage.

The Art on the Underground Writer in Residence is a creative opportunity for a TfL staff member to develop their writing by working with Art on the Underground.

The Writer in Residence programme will highlight and amplify the creative voices within TfL, creating engaging responses to Art on the Underground artists and artworks throughout 2022.

Stooped in Courage – Ayesha Kundi

You tell me stories
Of black and white
Of brown and pale
Of people in disguise

Are we not
Flesh and bones
Blood and stones
Stooped in courage

Our prospects
Lie in a higher power
Our power

Are we the children
Of a lesser God
Or just the
Of our

For you
We are strangers
For you
We don’t belong

But your home was built
On our blood
On our sacrifice
On our two-toned tongue

So yes
We do belong
More than.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us via email. Thank you for supporting Art on the Underground.

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