Biography for Shanti Panchal (1951)

Shanti Panchal is a leading London-based Indian artist with an international reputation. He has won the 1991 National Portrait Gallery/BP Portrait Award, was Artist-in-Residence at the National Gallery in London in 1994, and was a 2003 nominee for the UK Asian Achievers Awards. During 2010-11 he was included in the Tate Britain initiated touring exhibition, and has had a painting commissioned in 1989 and recently bought a painting of his sons in Afghanistan by The Imperial War Museum. Last year he was the winner of the prestigious Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize for a painting titled 'Artist and the Lost Studio'.

Born in 1951 in Mesar in the state of Gujarat, Shanti Panchal studied art at the JJ School of Art in Mumbai where he also worked on a fellowship for a year. Further study at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London on a British Council Scholarship directed his future track that included a stint as artist-in-residence at the British Museum in London.

For over twenty five years Panchal has worked solely in watercolour not prepared to accept the conventional limits he pushes the boundaries of his medium, developing a unique way of using watercolour that is close to the art of fresco, building layer upon layer almost in a meditative state of being.

Only by living away from the culture of his formative years, Shanti is able to crystallize his thoughts and vision hence when Shanti talks about his paintings he explains:

“The earthen colours of my palette relate to my early years spent in a village in Gujarat, Western India.  It is strange but through these experiences I found myself inspired to develop a very personal visual language.  In my paintings of the family in which I grew up, where western notions of privacy were absent, the characters manage to create their own inner space and the lack of privacy often highlights their essential loneliness.”

Many of Panchal’s paintings include graceful figures with large dark soulful eyes illustrating a personal vision suspended in time taking on an almost mythological atmosphere. In all of this artist’s compositions he creates a narrative questioning our place in the world, literally illuminating the everyday until it is full of beauty. He creates an intimacy which draws us closer to another culture and presents an insight into the artists mind.

Andrew Lambirth wrote.’ ('Luminous Serenity', The Spectator, January 2007)   His... 'Are luminous images of great poise and dignity, which quite often attain gravity unusual in contemporary portraiture... Shanti Panchal, through a thorough understanding of interval and placement and a palette which is both powerful and subtle, makes paintings of rare poetry and eloquence.'