'Colours In My Eyes' coming to OPEN Ealing Arts Centre
Savita Vithalji Katbamna, or Ba
A 92-year-old woman is holding her inaugural art exhibition at OPEN Ealing Arts Centre.
‘Colours In My Eyes’ features the work of Savita Vithalji Katbamna, or Ba, as she is known to all her family and friends.
Savita was born in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India in December 1929. She and her late husband Vithalji moved with their young family in 1964 to Kenya and then, in 1968, to the UK.
Her love of the arts was shared by her husband, whose passion was photography. Ba’s youthful spirit springs from her family of 8 children (4 of whom live in Ealing), 14 grandchildren, 4 step-grandchildren, 8 greatgrandchildren and 6 step-great-grandchildren.
During the pandemic, Savita shielded at home, and last year she took up painting in acrylics on canvas as a hobby. She started to receive commissions for her art. Now at 92 years of age, Ba is holding her first art exhibition, having completed over 200 canvasses.
Some samples of her work
One project of the artist’s work recreated a childhood memory of another nonagenarian. At the age of 91, Ba painted a fox as a gift for Ealing residents Mr and Mrs Niall and Dorothy Fox, both in their early 90s. Mr Fox commissioned her to paint a reclining tiger for his 99-year-old friend, Mr Bob White. She then painted a surprise gift for 94-year-old Niall Fox to recreate a childhood memory he had told her about – as a child growing up in the 1930s during economic unrest, he had joined in efforts to feed starving elephants in Dublin Zoo and an adult elephant had scooped him up while he was feeding a baby elephant.
One of Ba’s daughters created the outline of the child and the elephants from a composite of references which included a childhood photo of Niall seated in a toy vehicle, and archived materials to ascertain the ages, heights and names of the elephants. Ba’s painting was gifted along with a brief historical account gleaned from news items from the 1930s. It appeared that the adult elephant had been banned from giving rides to the public.
When Mr Fox received this gift, he immediately showed his wife and exclaimed, “This is how it was!”
She says, “Even before I apply paint to canvas or threads to an embroidery piece, I see colours in my eyes of how the finished piece will be. I learned to embroider as a child, stitching flowers, peacocks, parrots and animals onto textiles and sarees,”
Painting has been an alternativeto embroidery, distracting Ba from arthritis pains and physical distance from loved ones. Ba has frequent conversations about her art with each family member to discover what to create for them. She develops her ideas further so that her daughters can sketch outlines of animals, whimsical creatures, Hindu deities, Maharajas, and family members and friends on canvas, much like embroidery templates. She then paints with her own style and a choice of vibrant colours.
Her unique style has created much excitement in and outside her family, with numerous commissions for her paintings. Commissioned pieces have given her insights into the lives and interests of her family and friends whose company she has not been able to enjoy since 2020 due to the lockdowns.
Ba displays her latest artwork on online meetings with family and friends, and her singing group. This exhibition marks the first time that her lockdown paintings will be displayed altogether in public.
Liz Pope says, “Ba has been finding out about her family’s interests and stories and her painting is connecting back with them. A two-way process has developed into a deep connection between Ba and her family. The paintings show them her interest in them and in their lives – that she is thinking of them and is
thinking of what matters to them. They get to see Ba is joyful, is vibrant and connecting with them from her bedroom/art studio.”
Her exhibition ‘Colours In My Eyes’ will be at Open Ealing Arts Centre on the 6th, 7th and 8th May with free entry to the general public.
Times for general public viewing:
Friday 6th May: 10am – 1pm then 6.30pm – 10pm
Saturday 7th May: 11.30am – 1pm then 4pm – 6.30pm
Sunday 8th May: 10am – 2.30pm and 6pm – 8pm
OPEN Ealing Arts Centre is at School Lane, Dickens Yard (W5 2TD).
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April 28, 2022