Art on the Underground is pleased to present a new artwork by Jem Perucchini at Brixton Underground station from November 2023, marking the Italian artist’s first major commission.
Titled Rebirth of a Nation, the large-scale public artwork will be on view for a year and is the latest in a series of commissions for the station, following on from the work of artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Joy Labinjo. Initiated in 2018, the programme invites artists to respond to the diverse narratives of the area, in recognition of the local murals painted in Brixton in the 1980s.
Born in Ethiopia but based in Italy since childhood, Perucchini is powerfully influenced by Italian art history. Conjuring the Early Renaissance with his distinctive, richly detailed painting style, his new work for Brixton station captures ethereal figures with luminous light. Perucchini maintains a strong connection to his practice, focussing on the active role of Western art history in the construction of archetypes. Mining for overlooked narratives, his compositions are both familiar and enigmatic, and reimagine how the fantasies of the past can impact on the realities of the present.
This work’s inspiration is drawn from the Ivory Bangle Lady, the name given to the occupant of an ancient grave dated to around the 4th century. The Ivory Bangle Lady was of North African origin; her grave was found in York. Perucchini’s work underscores how history can be seen and interpreted from multiple viewpoints and charges the work with questions about the hierarchy of narratives, the construction of national identity and how some histories are privileged, whilst others are erased. Rebirth of a Nation challenges the notion that Black British history stretches no further back than the 20th Century, celebrating the long lineage of Black Britons who came before and pointing towards an equally glorious future, set within a divine and timeless world.
Brixton Underground Station, until November ‘24. Free.
Image: Jem Perucchini, 'Rebirth of a Nation', 2023. Brixton Underground station. Commissioned by Art on the Underground. Photo: Angus Mill.