What connects a neon ice cream van, a tiger burning bright, and pro-immigration messages? It’s the fabulous and, quite literally, illuminating Winter Commission at Tate Britain — this year created by British Asian artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman, and titled Remembering a Brave New World.
Since 2017, the gallery on Millbank has invited artists to deck its façade in festive lights. The ‘C word’ needn’t be uttered, so although the first installation was titled Home for Christmas, the freedom’s there to create a beautiful thought-provoking alternative to those Instagrammable Regent Street angels.
Chila Kumari Singh Burman has done just that; I love how much of the artist herself is integrated. The Om symbol sits towards the top of the work (its unveiling coincided with Diwali, the Hindu festival of light). A tiger stalks the balustrades while a peacock perches on the façade, reflecting Burman’s South Asian heritage.
When the artist’s family arrived in Merseyside from India, her father couldn’t find work and decided to sell ice cream out of a van; a neon version bearing the family name is proudly parked up on the steps outside Tate.
There’s lots of symbolism here, including the statement ‘Without us there is no Britain’ — a pro-immigration message we can all get behind.
2020’s installation is particularly poignant, given that London’s galleries are shuttered for a second lockdown. While I was there, dozens of others were drawn to the lights; it’s the beacon of art and positivity we all need right now. Slide aside, glowing slugs: we have a new favourite Winter Commission.
Remembering a Brave New World by Chila Kumari Singh Burman is on display until 31 January.
Last Updated 18 November 2020