|Born||Hema Hirani, changed her name to Hema Upadhyay in 1998.
|Education||Bachelor's (Painting) and Master's (Printmaking) in Fine Arts from M.S. University, Baroda.|
Hema Upadhyay (born 1972 in Baroda, India) is an Indian artist who has lived and worked in Mumbai, India since 1998. She uses photography and sculptural installations to explore notions of dislocation and nostalgia.
Sweet Sweat Memories
Hema had her first solo exhibition, titled Sweet Sweat Memories, at Gallery Chemould, now Chemould Prescott road (Mumbai), in 2001. The exhibition consisted of mixed media on paper works. In these works she has incorporated her own photographs to communicate her ideas of migration having moved to Bombay in 1998. Hema's paintings are usually characterised by the inclusion of small-collaged photographic self-portraits. Miniaturizing images of herself in various positions, she inserts them into her allegorical landscapes allowing them to interact with the decorative and fictive environments she creates.
Sweet Sweat Memories speak of a sense of alienation and loss and at the same time a feeling of awe and excitement one usually feels when in a new place. The large mixed media on paper works on display were inspired by the suicide of one of her neighbours as well as the confusion that arose in her as a result of living in an urban sprawl where dream and aspirations are both excited and forcefully repressed. The title work in this show encapsulates these feelings perfectly. It is a close up of a mouth, wide and smiling, only to reveal the decay and decadence that lurks everywhere.
In the 2001 Hema had her first international solo at Artspace, Sydney, and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, where She exhibited an installation titled The Nymph and the Adult (also exhibited at the 10th International Triennial – India held in New Delhi) she hand sculpted 2000 lifelike cockroaches, infesting the gallery with them, to draw repulsion as well as fascination from her viewers. The work was intended to make viewers think about the consequences of military actions.
In 2003, she did a collaborative work titled Made in China, which spoke about mass consumerism, globalisation and a loss of identity through this. Her next collaboration was in 2006 when she collaborated with her mother, Bina Hirani, the work was titled Mum-my and was shown at the Chicago Cultural Centre.
Hema expanded her language to include installations; from 2004 onwards her installations have been part of various group shows at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing, China; National Portrait Gallery Canberra, Australia; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel; MACRO museum, Rome, Italy; IVAM, Valencia, Spain; Mart Museum, Italy; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Hanger Bicocca, Milan, Italy; Chicago Cultural Centre, Chicago, USA; Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, France; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Japan Foundation, Tokyo and the Henie Onstad Kunssenter, Oslo, Norway.
She was the only Indian artist to be part of the inaugural exhibition for the Reopening of the MACRO museum, Rome. The exhibition was curated by Luca Massimi Barbero, Hema exhibited her installation titled Where the bees suck, there suck I.
Residencies and workshops
In 2010, Hema was invited for a residency at Atelier Calder, Sache, France. While there, she completed the work Only Memory has Preservatives, this work was inspired by the natural surroundings in Sache, but also reflected ideas that have been part of her practice. Hema tried to replicate the forest in her studio, though not in the literal sense. Using copyright free images of certain trees found in the area, she created a landscape work without using materials from nature. The work is a process based experiment in trying to understand the inside – outside dichotomy. She has also been part of residencies where she has explored displacement related issues with an autobiographical approach. In 2003 she was part of the Vasl residency in Karachi where she made a work titled Loco foco motto (which she later in 2007 exhibited in a group show at the Hanger Bicocca, Milan, Italy) that spoke about the India-Pakistan divide keeping in mind her own family history related to the partition of India. The works were also a break from her trademark symbolism, they were more craft oriented as she used matchsticks and glue to make chandeliers. Constructed of thousands of un-ignited matchsticks assembled into elaborate chandeliers, these pieces embody an important element of Hindu ritual, symbolising creation and destruction, a trend in her work, which explores violence co-existing with beauty.
In her recent works, Hema introduces an additional layer to the works as a sculptural element. The artist repeatedly uses patterned surfaces, which quote from Indian spiritual iconography and traditional textile design. Hema's marriage of these surfaces with her own image is meant to touch on themes of migration and displacement in South Asia and also reflect upon the existential plight of the artist as solo creator. Her use of shading and her depiction of smoke-like elements give the impression of claws of destruction; the theme is elucidated by the titles, Killing Site.
Dream a wish-wish a dream (2006), was the first large-scale installation that Hema did. At first glance her installation seems to be only a landscape of Bombay; however, it is actually a statement on the changing landscape by migrants who make Bombay.
Selected solo presentations
- 2012 Extra Ordinary, Faculty of Fine Arts Baroda, and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
- 2012 Mute Migration, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
- 2011–12 Princesses Rusted Belt, Studio La Citta, Verona Italy (Ex Cat)
- 2011 Moderniznation, Espace Topographie de l'Art, Festival D' Automne a Paris, Paris
- 2009 Where the bees suck, there suck I, Reopening of MACRO museum, Rome Italy
- 2008–09 Yours Sincerely, Gallery Nature Morte, New Delhi
- 2008 Universe revolves on, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore (Ex. Cat)
- 2004 Underneath, Gallery Chemould, Bombay (Ex. Cat)
- 2001–02 The Nymph and the Adult, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (Ex. Cat)
- 2001 Sweet Sweat Memories, Gallery Chemould, Bombay (Ex. Cat)
- 2001 The Nymph and the Adult, Art Space, Sydney
Invited as Artist in Residence
- 2010 Atelier Calder, Sache, France
- 2008 Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore
- 2007 Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, USA
- 2003 Vasl International Artists Residency, Karachi
- 2001 Art Space, Sydney
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