Hema Upadhyay was born in 1972 in Baroda, India and currently lives and works in Mumbai. Throughout the years, she has included materials such as found objects, paint, graphite and photography. She enjoys exploring various media options and the appearance of her work varies greatly, however, a specific installation series depicting the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai, is what truly encompasses a reoccurring theme. This theme is the idea of identity in a space, overcrowding, violence and urban life in general. Upadhyay explores the slum-dwelling individual’s outlook, whether it is hopeful, or repressed. Her work
is beautifully detailed but gives you a sense of entrapment.
In order to create each installation, the artist uses materials that the slums themselves are built from--metal scraps, aluminum sheets, found objects and car parts make up each piece. Upadhyay has created various floor installations using these materials, but took it a step further in constructing an 8’x12’ installation that covered the walls and ceiling space. The area is beautiful when it comes to color, craftsmanship, and detail but horribly overwhelming--a feeling that the artist was clearly trying to evoke.
By creating such intricate and large-scale slum reproductions, she forces viewers to relate directly to those living in such conditions. Because of the sheer size and detail of the installations, the imagery has an everlasting impact. Although Upadhyay conjures emotions we might not want to feel, it is necessary in order to inform others of the reality of such places.
Imagery from slums, such as Dharavi, can be difficult to look at and that is why many people choose not to. However, Upadhyay is successful in presenting this sight-specific imagery in a fascinating way, forcing people to think about and recognize the existence of a location that they previously may have avoided. It is hard to look away from Hema Upadhyay’s work, and there is the constant conflict of beauty and tragedy.
-Molly (guest blogger)
Photos provided by Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, The City Fix