Flatland: A Landscape of Punjab
An exploration of memory, migration and Sikh diaspora through photographs of Punjab's rivers and uncharted villages.
British Indian photographer Max Kandhola explores themes of memory, migration and Sikh diaspora through large-scale colour photographs of Punjab’s many rivers and uncharted villages.
Flatland is the second installment in Kandhola’s photographic trilogy mapping his family’s heritage, continuing from Illustration of Life, a poignant document of his father’s struggle with cancer first shown in the UK at Impressions in 2003. In Flatland, Kandhola takes as his starting point the Sikh tradition of scattering ashes in running water to symbolize a physical reintroduction of the body back into the land. Returning to his ancestral homeland, he found himself in unfamiliar territory, yet informed by memories passed down to him through his family.
The word Punjab means ‘land of the five rivers’. Kandhola says, ‘these rivers are significant to the history of Punjab; the history and politics of any country is embedded within the memory of land and landscape’. Following the formation of Pakistan in 1947, Punjab now straddles the borders of India and Pakistan.
Kandhola’s photographs are devoid of people, landmarks and typography, and avoid the usual visual references to ethnicity associated with representations of India. His images have been influenced by both the European landscape tradition, and by British suburban gardens, an expression of British identity and a reminder of the importance placed by diasporic Punjabis on the cultivation of land. In this way, Kandhola explores issues of representation and heritage, and how to portray aspects of family history, migration to England, and the post-independence diaspora.
The exhibition also includes Field Notes and Explorations, a collection of drawings, paintings and annotated Polaroids revealing Kandhola’s working process, which have never been exhibited in the UK before.
Max Kandhola (born Birmingham, UK) is a fine art photographer and Head of Photography at Nottingham Trent University. His work has been exhibited internationally, including PhotoInk, Delhi, India (Sept 2009); Central European House of Photography, Slovakia, Bratislava, (2009); the Pingyao Festival, China (2008); Les Rencontres d’Arles, France (2006); the Victoria and Albert Museum (2004); and Fotografie Forum, Frankfurt (2001).
His work is held in the collections of the National Media Museum, Bradford; Government Art Collection; Light Work, Syracuse; and Deutsche Bank Collection, Germany. Publications include Illustration of Life, published by Impressions Gallery and Light Work in association with Dewi Lewis (2003), and the monograph Peter Max Kandhola, published by Autograph and Arts Council England (1996).