Brixton is a neighbourhood well-renowned for its murals, and one place you're always guaranteed to catch a good one is on your way down into Brixton Underground station.
Here, Art on the Underground has a rolling commission of thought-provoking pieces — works to make you stop, look and ponder, in the midst of the hustle and bustle. The latest installation is Brixton Blue, by Grenada-born British artist Denzil Forrester.
The scene — saturated in a palette of blues — captures the cacophony of contemporary urban life: lights, sirens and ghetto-blasters blare. The figures are kinetic, angular, imposing. You can feel the nightlife of Brixton pounding off the paint.
But there is something darker at play; Brixton Blue is a reinterpretation of Forrester's 1982 work, Three Wicked Men (now in the Tate's collection, not currently on display). He painted it during his time at the Royal College of Art, when racial tensions in London were rife. The wicked men in question are a policeman, a politician and a businessman — in Forrester's painted versions, the latter is often replaced by a Rasta.
The original painting features Winston Rose — a friend of Forrester's who died whilst under police restraint in 1981 — and emotions of sadness and unease in Brixton Blue are palpable.
There is one muse above all, though, for Forrester: "Music and dance were, and still are, my main sources of inspiration, he says. "I was lucky to be in Hackney at the right time — the 80s. I had access to all the major 'Dub' blues nightclubs: Phebes, All Nations and Four Aces.
"For the very first time I was in a big space with dub reggae playing at maximum volume, it was a piece of heaven on earth.
"I began to take my sketchbook, A1 paper and drawing equipment and draw.
"Music has a way of uniting people. Unfortunately, lots of these places are disappearing — Four Aces is now luxury flats. This is a golden opportunity for a fast moving audience to see my work on a massive scale."
This is the third Art on the Underground commission at Brixton, following on from works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby in 2018 and Aliza Nisenbaum earlier in 2019.
Artists are asked to respond to the diverse narratives of the Brixton murals from the 1980s, the rapid development of the area and the wider social and political history of mural making.
You have until September 2020 to catch Brixton Blue