Born in Gujarat, India, Panchal studied at Art at Sir JJ School of Art in Bombay where, upon graduating, Panchal received a fellowship to teach. Following this, Panchal was awarded a British Council Scholarship to study at Byam Shaw School of Art in London. Panchal's first solo exhibition took place at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1978. He has since exhibited his work extensively around the world with solo exhibitions at the Southbank Centre, London, Piano Nobile Gallery, London, the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford and a touring exhibition with the British Council that took Panchal's work from London to Mumbai.
Panchal was elected as Artist in Residence for both the British Museum in 1994, followed by Windsor and Newton Art Factory in 2000. Panchal has since been elected as an Honorary Member of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of British Artists. Panchal has been the recipient of countless awards, including winning the Sunday Times Watercolour competition and the John Moores Painting Prize. Panchal was awarded the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize in 2015 with his self-portrait Artist and The Lost Studio (2015). Panchal's work is held in numerous public collections including those of the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Windsor and Newton Art Factory and De Beers.
Renowned for his figurative painting, Panchal's paintings are recognisable for the poise and stillness his subjects emanate. His portraits are as luminous as they are poetic, with a colour palette redolent of the tint of Indian textiles.
Panchal's Artist in the Lost Studio exemplifies this same stillness, capturing not only the physical self of the artist but his inner spiritual vitality. As Julian Spalding has written of Panchal's work: 'Shanti Panchal's paintings are sculptures of light. They aren't flat, still less shimmers across a screen. You need to see them in the flesh, in the same way you look at someone you love... His is, primarily, a physical art. But the substance he is modelling, cutting into and shaping is not material; it's nothing less than light itself.'