Art on the Underground presents Endurance, a new large-scale public commission at Brixton Underground station by Shanti Panchal – launched 17 November 2022 and on view for one year.
Endurance is the sixth in a series of commissions at Brixton station, following on from Joy Labinjo, Helen Johnson, Denzil Forrester, Aliza Nisenbaum and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. The programme invites artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the local murals painted in the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.
Endurance is a reproduction of a large-scale watercolour artwork in which Panchal has painted a community portrait that observes our continued resilience and interdependency. Shown in the image are three scenes of Londoners – the people include an artist, an NHS worker, a waiter, people at work and at leisure. In the background are buildings, statues and sections of open public space that draw on the Brixton neighbourhood and wider context of London. The architecture seen behind the figures includes the Black Cultural Archives, Brixton Windmill and Tate Modern. Present among the scenes are The African and Caribbean War Memorial and the Cherry Groce Memorial Pavilion in Windrush Square. These draw into the artwork monuments to places and people that we celebrate, that we have lost, that been taken from us, where we gather and build anew.
Deeply influenced by the country of his birth, India, Panchal’s work is connected to his childhood years in Mesar, North Gujarat – the colours of his village, the embodied spirituality of family life and the intensity of a small farming community. The figures in Panchal’s work carry this interior world with them, their poses and faces reminiscent of early Jain Miniature paintings. The eyes in Panchal’s figures do not directly look at each other but the artist visually creates the suggestion of a third eye, which talks of a different connection between us of shared memory and spirituality.
Panchal’s artwork for Brixton was produced over six months with layers of watercolour pigment worked into the paper almost like the process of a fresco mural. The depth of colour this creates draws on the hues of Panchal’s childhood and creates an image as though sealed with a meditative filter. There is an intentional slowness and care to this process of painting. Panchal holds conversations with the figures he is painting which creates an intimacy between the artist and the scene, drawing together memory, experience and the present in a composition that reflects our contemporary moment.
During the 1970s and 80s, London became an important city for mural production. Murals from this period represent the political climate, social context and communities who collaboratively made them. Shanti Panchal’s Endurance centres this history of mural making in Lambeth and London that were the starting point for Art on the Underground’s programme at Brixton station. In 1984, The Greater London Council (GLC) launched its Anti-Racist Mural Programme. This programme commissioned four murals, one by Shanti Panchal and Dushela Ahmad in Tower Hamlets, which partly still exists at the crossroads of Dellow Street and Lowood Street in Shadwell. A second by Keith Piper and Chila Kumari Singh Burman in Southall, a third from Lubaina Himid and Simone Alexander in Meanwhile Gardens, Notting Hill and the fourth in Brixton from Gavin Jantjes and Tam Joseph.
Shanti Panchal has produced several murals since his 1984 work in East London, central to Panchal’s continued practice is the process of using paint to tell a story of a moment in time, encapsulating complexities, relationships and scenes from a community, from lives ever adapting to the present.
Shanti Panchal, Artist, said: “It has been an exciting experience, painting for six months on the Brixton mural, exploring Brixton’s history, art and culture. I wanted to reflect and celebrate the vibrant cultural life in Brixton and London. We have suffered a great deal past few years but the resilience and healing powers of people have always found a way to overcome adversities throughout the history. People and places in the mural tell us a story of each community within Brixton and London. I feel that we have endured difficult and hard times in the past, facing challenges of the present and looking forward to a bright future.“
About Shanti Panchal
Shanti Panchal was born in Mesar, a village in Gujarat, India, and studied at the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. He came to England on a British Council scholarship to study at the Byam Shaw School of Art, London from 1978-80, and has lived and worked in London since. He has been artist-in-residence at the British Museum, the Harris Museum in Preston and the Winsor & Newton Art Factory in London. He has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions in Britain and abroad.
He is renowned for his watercolour paintings, and has received awards at the John Moores Painting Prize, Liverpool and the BP Portrait Award, at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and won first prize in The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition in 2001, and in 2012 won the second. He won the prestigious Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize in 2015 and in May 2016 was awarded Eastern Eye ACTA for the arts.
His work is in many private and public collections, including the Arts Council of England, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The British Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. In 1989 The Imperial War Museum commissioned his painting The Scissors, The Cotton and the Uniform, and in 2012 also acquired his painting The Boys Returned from Helmand for their Collection and recently The Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Collection, London.