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!”