Hetain Patel’s work is personal. It’s about him, his family and how he reconciles being Indian in Britain.

His honesty is his strength as he explores being a second-generation Gujarati British migrant, and how each day he walks between worlds; from an Indian home to the streets outside – and how he wants to create a bridge between these very different environments.

It was by going back to his childhood games that Hetain Patel finds this bridge. And it’s what we currently have on show at Art Exchange – an exhibition focusing on ‘The Jump’, his award-winning short film. We were dancing around the office when he accepted our invitation to show with us, as we love the playfulness of his work. It is through the simple action of jumping off a sofa dressed in a homemade Spiderman outfit that Hetain speaks of so much more; childhood desires for inclusion, attempting to reconcile being othered, and finding acceptance through delving into the realms of fantasy. While all along, celebrating your own heritage in a country steeped in colonial legacy.

‘The Jump’ takes inspiration from Hollywood action superhero films and the domestic setting of Hetain’s grandmother’s home. Shot in slow motion with an orchestral soundtrack taking it into the realms of epic cinema, ‘The Jump’ simultaneously imitates the production values of big budget action movies, while revealing the artist’s hopes and dreams as he leaps from his grandmother’s sofa, with his family looking on. 

Hetain Patel in a full Spiderman outfit, crouched on a chair while in a Spiderman pose. Next to Hetain is his grandmother, they are both sat in her home, side by side and facing the camera.

As Hetain tells us, “The work is about taking a leap into the unknown, whether this is my family’s migration to the UK, or my generation who grew up in the UK and were eager to step out of those doors and be accepted. I wanted to take the supposed exoticism and marginality of my family and our home and connect it with something widely recognised – like a pop culture icon such as Spiderman.” 

The film is also about love and acceptance. When invited to take part in ‘The Jump’, his family all turned up and fondly watch as Hetain re-enacts his childhood game. There is so much affection in the room – it is tender, heartfelt and accepting - and its why I can watch the film again and again.

Hetain Patel dressed in a homemade Spiderman outfit leaping off his grandmother’s living room sofa as his extended family look on.

The exhibition includes other artworks too – a life size model of Hetain Patel dressed as Spiderman sits alongside a wonderful photograph of him and his grandmother. Behind the two of them is a wall covered in family photos – weddings, school portraits, graduation shots – those rites of passage we all celebrate. These images also extend into his latest paintings of family gatherings, which are painted on a black shiny surface as they reference his father’s work customising cars at a local garage. The European white canvas wasn’t a tradition that spoke to him, so Hetain invented his own.

This is what fascinates me most about Hetain Patel – how he creates his own visual language. Western artistic traditions don’t necessarily speak to his heritage, so instead, he turns to his lived experience to create a new visual language of his own. This is why his work is unique, inventive and like nothing you’ve seen before.

Hetain Patel will be giving a talk about his work on Tuesday 5 March, 6pm to 7pm, in person, on campus. He will be in conversation with art critic and lecturer Dr Matthew Bowman at Art Exchange.

Admission is free – all welcome.

To find out more, visit www.artexchange.org.uk.

Artist Hetain Patel sits in a cinema theatre of red chairs