Hardeep Pandhal
Confident, 2021
India ink, gouache on paper
50.5 x 69.5 cm
£ 4,500


These drawings are inspired by the Anglo-Indian ghost stories of the Irish born author Bithia Mary Croker. Her work is considered to belong to a sub-genre of horror fiction written by underappreciated white women in the colonies, who were otherwise known as memsahibs in India during the British Raj. The works of these writers are thematically linked by appearing to be critical of the colonial mindset. For example, the stories involve white men being cursed and haunted by the natural environment, by colonial subjects who have died as a result of racist policies and by the ghosts of previous generations of white settlers. Arguably, these stories subvert the idea of the dark, evil other and adopt a more sympathetic stance towards the subjects of colonialism. These memsahibs therefore attempt to position themselves as having a shared subjectivity with the colonial subjects, or the native men at least. Their works provide a stark contrast to the works of canonised writers such as Rudyard Kipling, who wrote for, and in the tradition of, the male adventurous hero overcoming darkness. From a broader, tonal perspective, I was thinking about the idea of a South Asian or Punjabi Gothic, or even a Weird Punjabi Gothic, since the classic literary tropes of familial or inherited trauma in western Gothic texts also permeate actual South Asian family settings. It already exists in my opinion, there’s just no catch-all name to describe it as a genre or sub-genre yet. For me, Weird Punjabi Gothic would revolve around the miasmic forces of ‘unsettlement’ caused by acculturation. You could say my nascent Weird Punjabi Gothic cosmos comprises illiterate mothers, repressed fathers, decapitated bodies, haunting colonial subjects such as Sepoys and sentient, stomping Dr Martens boots. I was also thinking about the controversial play Behzti (Shame) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, which takes place in a fictional UK Gurdwara where holy and ‘unholy’ things ensue. In my most recent statement I announce my work ‘exhibits syncretic strains of post-brown weirdness’. I suppose what I am striving for is a real reclamation of the sources of horror that permeate the classic works of supernatural, weird horror and dark fantasy, since it is often simply Orientalist.


Hardeep Pandhal (b.1985, Birmingham. Lives and works in Glasgow) creates satirical moving image works, drawings, wall drawings, embroideries, installation and sculpture. (Across media, his audacious aesthetic combines text and image in explosions of lurid colours and undulating lines). Drawing upon sci-fi cartoons his animations are parallel worlds with extravagant characters loosely drawn from colonial histories are overlaid with Pandhal’s rap music. His nonchalant tone delivers unsettling political commentary on contemporary race and gender injustices. Plywood cut-outs, and hand-stitched embroideries created in collaboration with his mother are a similar burst of garish new-wave psychedelia: fun, and reflective on generational acculturation and displacement. Hardeep Pandhal received his BA from Leeds Beckett University, Leeds in 2007 and an MFA from Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow in 2013. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including, most recently: Tramway, Glasgow (2020); New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2019); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2019); South London Gallery, London (2018); New Museum, New York (2018); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2018); Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2017); Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2016). Pandal’s work forms part of the Arts Council Collection, UK; British Council Collection, UK; and the Gallery of Modern Art Collection, Glasgow. He was shortlisted for the Film Jarman Award (2018) and selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013).