A woman stands in front of a building that's been completely covered with fine-lined Hindi writing
Amrita Singhal stands in front of her new West Berkeley mural. Courtesy of the artist

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A brightly colored, meditative mural made by Berkeley artist Amrita Singhal has popped up down the block from Berkeley Bowl West. 

You can see it at 1035 Heinz Ave., now owned by Meyer Sound Laboratories but once the home of Sam’s 58 Club, an old Berkeley bar across from the former Heinz Building.

Singhal has covered the building’s entire Heinz Avenue side with an imaginative, repeated Hindi Rama prayer in blues and yellows. They’re transcribed in different sizes and planes that contour to the shape of the all-white background. The structure’s small size was perfect for the artist since she could paint all the surfaces — door, windows, awning, and even the two ashtrays at the door.

The design is based on a painting by Singhal in the Berkeley Art Museum’s collection, which follows the historical meditative Indian tradition of painting the words “Rama Rama” (the Hindu deity who embodies spiritualities and morality) in an exercise to strengthen the mind. 

It “is not exactly the way Rama would be written in Sanskrit,” Singhal said. “I’ve used the principles of negative space and abstracted the writing  to create something somewhat familiar yet abstracted.” 

Singhal stands on an aerial platform to paint while children walk past single file
A group of children walk past while Singhal works on her mural. Courtesy of the artist

Singhal had been working with the Berkeley Art Works Project, which funds artists’ work through city grants, for several years to find the right mural to mesh with her esthetic and talent when, with the help of Meyer Sound, the Sam’s 58 Club building became available. Although it was long planned, the actual painting took only about a week, with the artist using an aerial work platform or scissor lift to reach all contours of the building front. It was her first mural.

Singhal was born in India, emigrated to Berkeley, and practiced tax, securities, and business law before discovering her passion for art. Her artwork is a fascinating combination of colorful acrylics/oils and meditative Hindu monotypes that convey beauty, emotion and compassion.

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