Critics’ Picks

Jagdeep Raina, Never say goodbye, 2015, mixed media on paper, 60 x 88".

Jagdeep Raina, Never say goodbye, 2015, mixed media on paper, 60 x 88".


Hardeep Pandhal and Jagdeep Raina

Jhaveri Contemporary
4 Mereweather Road 3rd Floor Devidas Mansion
September 2–October 30, 2021

On view as part of the two-artist show “You migrate, we migrate, you displace, we displace,” Jagdeep Raina’s Club Kali, 2020, is a piece of bone-white muslin finished in lilac, silver, and gold phulkari, a Punjabi form of decorative embroidery. Running down the fabric is a delicately stitched poem flanked on either side by figures. Two people kiss with their eyes closed, their tongues smooth and reaching; a couple interlock arms, their foreheads touching. Named after the queer Club Kali Bollywood and Bhangra Nights in northwest London, the poem is an ode to Chitra Ganesh, “who says you can hold this history in my hands.” The history in question, the work suggests, is of the special relationship between pop music and the diaspora, of queer families that form across borders. In the mixed-media-on-paper Never Say Goodbye, 2015, portraits of Punjabi ballad singers are fringed with interlocking hearts, doodled-in leaves, and looping script that reads “forever” in English and Punjabi Urdu. The work is moody in a teenage way, infatuated with its subjects, weak at the knees.

Hardeep Pandhal is similarly tender but with more overt irony. Comprising synthetic-wool cricket vests, “The Lord Tebbit Series,” 2019, effectively gives the finger to Norman Tebbit, a Tory politician who in 1990 suggested a “cricket test” to measure Caribbean- and South Asian–immigrant loyalty to the crown. Loose threads unspool from the punkish knitted illustrations on each sweater. The images are suggestive and horny, a little garish, a little too much; they upset British notions of good taste. Pandhal embraces the lulz, offering satire in the age of memes. In the series “Happy Punjabi Gothic,” 2020, the artist uses etching, gouache, and ink to deconstruct racist tropes of Punjabi masculinity. Depictions of contorted, long-limbed figures are framed with drawings of chains, lace-up boots, and biceps curling out of the fraying armholes of T-shirts. Where Raina’s practice is reflective—even nostalgic—Pandhal’s is more confrontational. Juxtaposed, the two seem to represent a paradox of the diaspora experience: melancholy, but with sharp edges.