Hardeep Pandhal @ Tramway, Glasgow

Hardeep Pandhal's show combines pop culture, history and surreal imagination with adept drawing skills, wit and some excellent knits

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 02 Mar 2020
  • Hardeep Pandhal at Tramway

The irreverent caricatures and all the wanking references of Pandhal’s drawings, video, textile and sculptures go between being fun, funny and existentially dreadful. First, knitted cricket jumpers have bulging-eyed multicoloured, round-faced knitted additions. They refer to British colonial cultural rule (cricket being one means), as well as its unpredicted outcomes that resist easy control.

Across from the circle of display tables-cum-partitions that hold drawings and textiles, a large chipboard structure contains an animated film. Chains, Neighbourhood Watch iconography, deities, and other supernatural beings slide across the screen. The protagonist, a sword-waving decapitated horse-rider with a beard and turban, carries his own severed head across uncannily empty acid coloured landscapes. With Pandhal’s DIY rapping about isolation, sexual shame and self-hatred, it balances adroitly between being nightmarishly overwhelming and the comedic lankiness of the wiggly bodies he’s drawn. 

2Pac is a recurrent personality in Pandhal’s drawings, appearing long-lashed and gorgeous. A video Pandhal lifts from YouTube reasons that 2Pac is the 'absolute divinity,' with reference to an etymological and spiritual relationship between Thug Life and Hinduist epochs of Kali and her followers Thuggees.

In the drawings, Pandhal makes epic landscapes of imperial castle-like architecture and minarets labelled in an angry slashing script: 'SO MUCH FUN GALLERY,' 'ME AGAINST THE WORLD INSTITUTE'. There’s a nerdy attention to detail that makes them full and rich. For example, the carefully penned dark black hair of a giant alien monster that’s being flanked by winged bearded white men standing on Mario Kart's spiny blue shells – the nightmare one that’s unavoidable and only hits the first place rider.

With a careful focus to his idiosyncratic cartoonish worldmaking, Pandhal makes for rich new encounters with images of political violence, racist oppression, rapping about isolation and self-hatred, and the mystical mythologies he quotes.

Hardeep Pandhal: Confessions of a Thug: Pakiveli, Tramway, Glasgow, until 22 Mar, free