Hetain Patel: Baa's Gold / 16 September - 23 October 2021
Baa’s Gold is a deeply personal, first exhibition of paintings from Hetain Patel (Bolton, 1980), revisiting his relationship to family, immigration and, re-appropriating his family's place in British society.
Against the backdrop of his earlier video work To Dance Like Your Dad (2009), this new series of paintings takes its aesthetic cues from the gleaming black car paint of each hearse his father’s garage produced. In making these paintings, Patel walks in his father’s footsteps, though not quite as literally as in the carefully observed choreography filmed in the Bolton garage. Picked out in gold detailing, the subject of these high gloss mise-en-scenes follows yet another influence on Patel’s life - his late grandmother Lakshmiben Patel, who his family all called “Baa”, meaning “Mother” in Gujarati.
Baa and her family immigrated from Gujarat, North India, via Kenya to the northern city of Bolton in 1967. There, a large Victorian terrace became home to several generations of Patels, including Hetain until his parents were able to move out to a home of their own. This cross-generational household marked the artist’s early years and created a special bond between him, his family and the house whose details are brought back to life in this exhibition, recreated after Baa’s passing and the subsequent sale of the house.
Knowing that Hindu widows are only supposed to wear real gold bangles, in 2015 a gang of masked, gloved men broke into the 89-year-old’s home during the middle of the day where she lived alone.
During this traumatic ordeal, her home was ransacked and her gold bangles forcefully taken from her wrists. At close quarters, she could see through their eye holes that all the men in the group were white. As they made their escape, far from being crushed, in what Patel describes as her “fierce spirit", Baa shouted after them to “get back here and tidy all this up before you leave!”
Five years after this violent event, Patel’s new paintings look to retrieve Baa’s Gold - a metaphor for everything that has been taken from his family via the systemic racism experienced in the UK since Patel’s birth and before. From horrific events such as the assault on an elderly woman to daily microaggressions that form the backdrop of his lived experience as a man of colour, this exhibition wants to highlight these dynamics and transform them.
The images on the boards reproduce in geometrical, gold embossed lines both family photographs and distinctive patterns from Baa’s house such as 70’s floral carpets and window netting, all against a backdrop of black high gloss car paint. Taking photographs at home has long been a family tradition, a way to record history on their own terms.
Part of an ongoing interest in inserting historically marginalised narratives into mainstream culture, the aspect ratio of each painting is that of IMAX cinema, referring to film, Patel’s primary medium. Panels of painted text tell different versions of the burglary written as scenes from a screenplay: one gives the real version of events, while others diverge into the redemptive fiction of action and thriller films, echoing Quentin Tarantino and Bong Joon Ho.
"The geometrical drawing style I chose references the design of the 80’s Transformers cartoons — a recurring metaphor for cultural and social transformation in my work. As for the gold, as a family, survival has always been about alchemy - turning adversity into opportunity, lead into gold”.
Opening Wednesday 15 September, 6 - 9 pm
The exhibition runs Wed - Sat, 12 - 6pm until 23 October 2021
Born in Bolton, UK, in 1980, Hetain Patel’s practice spans a number of different media and is often performative in nature. Identity formation has been central to his concerns since the beginning of his career, more recently this idea has been viewed through the lenses of imitation, language and physical movement. Increasingly Hetain’s work is populated by characters, both fictional and real, in relation to which the artist juxtaposes himself in moments of elision and dissonance. Since 2010, his work has extended from gallery settings to the theatre. Hetain’s practice, exploring the subtle and often humorous complexities of life, has won a number of awards, including the Jarman Award for the film Don’t Look at the Finger (2019) and the Best International Film, Kino Der Kunst, Munich (2020).
Current and upcoming projects include British Art Show 9, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Aberdeen, Plymouth (2021); Trinity, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2021); Baa’s Gold, Copperfield, London (2021); Landmark, Sky Arts programme (2021); film screening at National Gallery (2021); newly commissioned film for CIRCA in association with Jarman Award (2021).
Patel’s solo exhibitions include Heavy Metal & Plastic Dreams, Birmingham Library, UK (2020); Don’t Look at the Finger, Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, Tanzhaus Düsseldorf, John Hansard Gallery, UK, New Art Gallery Walsall, UK, and Manchester Art Gallery, QUAD, Derby, UK (2018-2017); The Jump, Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburg, USA (2015); The Other Suit, The Agency Gallery, London, Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, India (2015); Fiesta Transformer, C-Mine, Genk, Belgium (2014); At Home, Pump House Gallery, London, mac, Birmingham, Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, India, and New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2014-2012); Love and Marriage, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2012); To Dance Like Your Dad, Watermans Arts Centre, London (2010); Sacred Bodies, National Office, Arts Council England, London (2010); To Dance Like Your Dad, New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2009).
Group exhibitions include The Fire Within, Various locations, Wigan, UK (2021); Peer to Peer, Online, Hong Kong - UK exchange (2020); Visions in the Nunnery (Lead Artist), Nunnery Gallery, London (2020); American Export, Grand Union Birmingham and Regent St Cinema, London (2019); It Ain’t Half Racist Mum! (screening alongside Stuart Hall film), ICA, London (2019); Kaleidoscope, Somerset House, London (2019); Deeper Within Its Silence, Devi Art Foundation, Delhi, India (2019); Drawing Biennial, Drawing Room, London, UK (2019); Shall We Dance, MUCEM, Marseille, France (2019); Speech Acts, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK Curated by Hammad Nasar (2018); Common Third, Copperfield, London (2018); Everything We Do Is Music, Drawing Room, London (2018); Now! Now!, Chelsea College of Arts, London UK. Curated by Sonia Boyce (2016); Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia (2016); Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf, 56th Venice Biennale (2015); SPHERES 7, Galleria Continua, Le Moulin, France (2015); Heaven & Earth, Southbank Centre, London, UK. Part of Darbar Fesitval (2014); SPHERES 6, Galleria Continua, Le Moulin, France (2013); Photoink, Delhi, India (2013); Indian Highway, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2012); Frictive Familiarities, Art Kino, Stockholm, Sweden (2010); Ignite, New Delhi, India (2010); The Authentic Self (screening), Broadway, Nottingham, UK (2010); Progress Report, InIVA, Rivington Place, London (2010); No Heroes, Redcat Theatre, Walt Disney, Concert Hall, Los Angeles (2010); Punctum 1, Lakeeren Art Gallery, Mumbai (2010); Wonder What The Others Are Up To?, Gallery OED, Cochin, India (2010); Pattern Recognition, City Gallery, Leicester, UK (2009); Emerging Discourse, Bodhi Art, New York, USA (2008).
Patel has presented performances at Royal Opera House, London (2018 & 2012); Sadler’s Wells, London (2018, 2016, 2014); National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai (2015); Serpentine Gallery, London (2014); Tate Modern, London (2012); Sydney Festival, Australia (2011); Tate Britain, London (2007) and he has been an artist in residence at 501 Artspace, Chongqing, China and Southbank Centre, London, among others.
His works are in national and international collections including Tate, British Council, Fondazione In Between Art Film (Rome), Kiran Nada Museum of Art (New Delhi), M+ Museum, University of Salford Art Collection, Lakeside Arts Centre (University of Nottingham).