This week we welcome Shanti Panchal to the expert judging panel for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2022. Shanti is a multi award winning artist and member of the Royal Watercolour Society, who in addition to selecting for the shortlist, will select the winner of the Outstanding Watercolour Award. Here, he tells us how he developed his watercolour practice and shares his advice to those thinking about entering the competition this year.
Above image: Marine, off duty from Frontline, 2012, Shanti Panchal, Watercolour on paper, 122 x 97 cm | 48 x 38 in
Clare: Your watercolour technique is so beautiful, the texture you achieve is so soft and rich. Can you tell us a bit about your process?
Shanti: I used to work on 12 x 6 ft. oil on canvas early years. Circumstances changed and I had no space so started working on 12 x 6 inch watercolour on paper.
I travelled to Europe and USA and found that watercolour historically has not changed in time like oils and acrylic. It was very limited to pretty flowers and sweet landscapes.
I was inspired by William Blake and Frances Bacon. I wanted strength in colour and surface of the textured watercolour paper giving almost fresco like results, like the cave paintings I had studied as a student.
After initially drawing the composition, I paint many layers of colours and mixing on the paper itself rather than on a palette, almost like injecting colour into fibre of the paper. This gives the strength of colour and surface. With oils and acrylic, one paints over a canvas or board while this way of working in watercolours, the textured surface of the paper and the colour become active.
Clare: Why are you drawn to watercolour as a medium? What do you find special about it?
Shanti: Simply, out of circumstances lead me to this medium and in that process I found myself obsessed with the results one can achieve. It’s almost like poetry in colour, the luminosity and translucency one can achieve is fantastic and cannot be done with any other medium. This is so special about watercolours.
Clare: Which four artists, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Shanti: I would invite Giotto, Blake, Bacon and Rothko for dinner. The sacred and spiritual content of Giotto and Blake inspire me immensely and their work is so uplifting that you feel so close to nature and its cosmic forces in a profound way. While Bacon’s conflicting and Rothko’s abstracted spaces and the fields colour take you on another journey which nurtures and heals your soul. This is why such art is so important part of our culture.
Clare: What have been your exhibition highlights of 2021, either online or in real life? Who are the artists you are most inspired by this past year?
Shanti: Although I have been showing this year in a number of group shows physically and online, the highlight of my first online show with Ben Uri Gallery, London has been a new experience for me. The virtual gallery allowed looking at painting in your home; the new normal in these uncertain times.
Paula Rego’s highly emotionally charged work and the late Constable’s beautiful skies, space, rain and wind were very inspiring shows this year.
Clare: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Shanti: Awards and competitions are part of the artist’s career. They create an opportunity and platform for an artist to exhibit and get noticed and eventually get recognised. This leads to gaining confidence in themselves and their practice. This critical appreciation can be important at an early stage in the career of an artist.
Clare: What will you be looking for in the entries submitted to the competition this year?
Shanti: I will be looking for quality and consistency in an artist’s practice of painting. It should be challenging and engaging. How the paint and the surface of the painting create a dialogue and manage to express the deep emotions and the intellect of its creator and yet maintain simplicity. It’s a singular journey to find a personal visual language of painting.
Clare: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Painting Prize this year?
Shanti: Yes, all artists at any stage in their career should enter the Jackson’s Painting Prize if the practice of your painting is important to you. It gives an opportunity to exhibit and win prizes and to be seen and reach out to a wider audience and further create more opportunity to exhibit. The whole purpose of your practice is to share your experiences and reach out to more people.
Clare: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Shanti: At the moment I am showing at the RA summer exhibition and in a group show at the Chapel Galleries in Colchester.
I will be part of two exhibitions in the New Year.
1. Portrait Artist of the Year exhibition at the Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, Warwickshire, curated by Kathleen Soriano from February – June 2022.
2. ME, MYSELF, I (self- portrait exhibition from Ruth Borchard collection) at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol from April – June 2022
Recently, I have been commissioned to work on a mural in Brixton Station in South London by TFL, an exciting project. I am just beginning and will be working throughout the first half of the 2022.