Q&A with Hardeep Pandhal

A body of new work by Hardeep Pandhal is the subject of a current solo exhibition at Eastside Projects titled Nightmare on BAME Street. Programmed as part of the two-year project Production Show, his work is manifest via animation, comic, knitwear and music.

Pandhal now lives and works in Glasgow, having graduated with an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art in 2013 with the support of a Leverhulme Scholarship award. He was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013), the Glasgow International Open Bursary (2013), the Catlin Art Guide (2014) and the Drawing Room Bursary Award (2015). Recent shows include a solo show Hobson-Jobson at Collective Edinburgh (2015) and groups shows The Vanished Reality, Modern Art Oxford (2016) and Nothing Happens, Twice: Artists Explore Absurdity, Harris Museum, Preston (2016).

Anneka French spoke to the artist to find out more about his practice and influences.

Enter a caption


Your work is deeply invested in issues of identity, social realism and translation. How did your early childhood in Birmingham shape your practice?

I went to an all boys school made up mostly of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian boys. The bouncers on the school gates during lunchtime were agreeable, so it was easy to truant. I used to soak my conkers in vinegar and heat them in the microwave because I thought this would make them stronger. I used to play snooker after school, I got a 33 break when I was 13. Teachers got punched in the face, my best friend got stabbed right next to me over a dispute over a girl. It was a distracting and disorientating experience.

I hope the language in my work can communicate being un-cocksure or a state of undifferentiated chaos. It’s like the idea of being caught between conflicting values at home and at school, or like having a double consciousness.

One formative moment was my first family trip to India, which we recorded with our first camcorder. I have been editing some of this material into my moving image work in various ways. I am thinking about the work of ‘Cultural Studies’ on mimicry and acculturation when I look back at my personal archive.

At the moment I am trying to convey the effects of cultural repression. There’s also something to be said about the role that poetic irony and parody play in performing acts of reclamation or empowerment as part of my method to making.

How is the city of Glasgow shaping your practice?

Glasgow feels like a secure place to live and make work. There is a nice community of artists based there and lots of influential people visiting. It also gives me the necessary distance to undertake the subjective thought-work in my work.

Can you tell me more about the collaboration with your mother? How does she feel about being part of your work?

When I think about making work, I try to start from an uncomfortable place. We share a language barrier so I cannot be sure how she feels about being part of my work. The knitted garments have images of heads stitched onto them. The effect of the stitching leaves the garment ‘puckered’, the heads bulge outwards in a manner that I thought was fittingly jarring, considering the nature of the collaboration. The relationship is forced in some ways but can also feel seamless too. It takes place in the domestic setting of the family house. It seems to make better sense as artwork upon reflection, retroactively. There is very little instruction or discussion surrounding each piece. Unlike the processes I undertake in other media, knitting and stitching in this way is linear – we set out to achieve what we initially decide and then the finished thing emerges after a couple of months. In that time I’m usually making other work away from home. Figuring out the distinction between being ‘performative’ and doing ‘performance’ also becomes hazy and therefore useful to think about. In a way, the meaning of the artwork is located in the production process – the exhibited object and exhibition scenario signifies the death and need of renewal of this process.

I am learning how to stitch my own designs on to the garments. Hopefully this activity will lead me to other threads

The phrase Nightmare on BAME Street brings with it a whole host of direct political and social issues. How did you arrive at this title?

‘BAME Street’ is an imagined place based on Dudley Road, the main road near the house I grew up in. My idea for the title did not arise in any clear systematic way. I wanted it to sound like a title for a rap mixtape. Also, I haven’t finished it! I often find myself in situations where the title for a work is required or made before actually finishing it or thinking through the ideas properly. It’s like a way of covering enough of the bases that I think are important or challenging for me to pursue in my work. In this case, I am developing my ongoing collaborative work with my mother by adopting some of her skills and I am reflecting on the area of Birmingham that I (somewhat reluctantly) identify with, which is largely made of migrant communities. Perhaps this ambivalence is a symptom of being socially mobile, or practising participant-observation in my work, or perhaps it’s a sort of perverse fantasy that has something to do with my own self-preservation?

What can visitors to the exhibition at Eastside Projects expect?

Visitors can expect to see some knitted work and a new animation, with my own music in it.

It feels more experimental or less pressured. The framing of Production Show has encouraged me to pursue some of the more overtly propositional aspects of my work. There’s multiple starting points, improvisation, half-sketched ideas and lots of unresolved thinking at this stage. Once the animation is complete we will edit the still frames into a book to take stock of what it is.

Pandhal’s solo exhibition Nightmare on BAME Street is showing at Eastside Projects until 22 April 2017.

Published on New Art West Midlands, February 2017