Art on the Underground are pleased to present a new permanent commission for Westminster station by British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong.
Achiampong’s artwork re-imagines the iconic London Underground roundel logo which for more than 100 years has been both a navigation tool and an instantly recognisable symbol for London. Achiampong’s new version replaces the traditional red and blue design with Pan African colours that speak symbolically to African diasporic identities while also acknowledging their contributions and presence in London. Green, black and red reflect the land, the people and the struggles the African continent has endured, while yellow-gold represents a new day and prosperity. He incorporates 54 stars arranged around the edge of the roundel, representing each of the 54 countries of the African continent joined in union.
Achiampong first re-imagined the London Underground roundel in 2019 as part of a temporary commission for Westminster Underground station, ‘PAN AFRICAN FLAGS FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLER’S ALLIANCE’ 2019. Eight new designs were displayed across seventy sites throughout the station. The new roundel will remain permanently installed above the main entrance to the station on Westminster Bridge Road, enlarged and rendered in vibrant vitreous enamel and painted metal colours.
In developing his project, Achiampong was inspired by Adinkra, a Ghanaian system of symbols created by the Akan people and used in textile designs, logos and pottery or incorporated into architectural features. The symbols convey short concepts and proverbs that relate to everyday life and the environment. The roundel also relates to the artist’s concept of ‘Sanko-time’, based in the Ashanti word ‘Sankofa’, which roughly translated means ‘Go back and retrieve’. Achiampong combines these ideas and images from West-African traditions with his broader interest in science fiction and time travel through the unearthing of hidden stories.
Earlier in 2022 Achimapong presented the 35th commission for the cover of London Underground’s pocket Tube map, titled ‘What I Hear I Keep’ and featuring a bold star and chevron design using the Pan African colours. Achiampong explains that his work with Art on the Underground since 2019 is intended to “explore imagination and a sense of connectedness between the African diaspora, and to reconsider their often forgotten or erased contributions to the city.”
Larry Achiampong said: “I feel that this permanent work at Westminster centres itself as a place of representation, so that among the many that will encounter it, especially young black kids who pass it by chance can see it as a lifting point. I didn’t see many artworks in public spaces growing up that were saying this is part of you or you can connect to this; this belongs to you. It’s important to have a connection to and a stake in a place.”
Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground stated: “Following on from the powerful display of Larry Achiampong’s redesigned roundel in 2019, it is highly fitting that we are returning to the station with a permanent iteration that addresses the lack of recognition of diverse voices in public spaces of our city. Through the symbolic use of colours that represent countries of the African continent, Achiampong’s roundel reminds us of the many contributions to the city that are hidden, overlooked or erased, but which will now permanently be displayed in the very heart of London.”
Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries said: “Art on the Underground has a rich tradition of showcasing work by pioneering artists so I’m delighted that Westminster station will be a permanent home to Larry Achiampong’s bold, reimagined roundel. It is a fantastic illustration of London’s diverse cultural heritage – acknowledging the incredible contributions of the capital’s African diaspora – and will inspire future generations to continue redefining public art.”
This year Achiampong is the subject of a major solo exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Margate, opening on 12th March until 19th June 2022. The show will then go on to tour to MK Gallery, followed by BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art.