Since 2002, Hema Upadhyay worked on thought-provoking installations engaging with Dharavi, Mumbai — the second-largest slum in the continent of Asia and the third-largest slum in the world.
At times Upadhyay simply observes the overwhelming sprawl, and at others she inserts herself into the complexity of the scape, commenting on the stark contrast between the harsh reality of urban life and its eerie beauty.
Dream a Wish, Wish a Dream (2009) is an early installation by the artist directly addressing the vulnerability of urban life in the third-world, the meditative work focuses on Mumbai’s shanty towns, which appear here upside down and protruding, a canopy over a decorated montage.
Upadhyay’s photography and sculptural installations explore notions of personal identity, dislocation, nostalgia and gender, she often draws on the theme of migration and human displacement across Asia. The artist’s own personal and family history of migration is often evidenced in the works, referencing the repercussions and socio-economic inequalities that emerge as a hidden consequence of the relentless tide of urban development in the city.
Standing at an impressive 8 feet by 12 feet (dimensions based on the size of an average slum house) the piece invites the audience to literally enter a marked interior space, the walls and ceiling of the construction present an aerial slum view, the viewer is at once intimately within and yet detached from the space.
Made using maquettes of tin houses created from aluminium sheets, car scraps, enamel paint, tarpaulins, pieces of metal and other found objects collected from Dharavi, the work is a study in contrasts. Great and yet minute scale, physicality and strong, deliberate actions by the viewer, juxtaposed with a solemn invitation for calm and rumination. As one becomes accustomed to the initial discomfort, a concealed beauty and details emerge: temples and mosques, few high-rise towers amid a swarm of tiny dwellings, an intricate wired mesh of street lamps and TV antennas.
With this presentation, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art furthers its vision to activate visual and intellectual dialogue and arts appreciation across the country, with a focus on bridging the gap between art and the public offering new ways for audiences to engage with both traditional and contemporary art in South Asia.
About the Artist
Hema Upadhyay was born in Baroda, Gujarat in 1972. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Painting (1995) and Master’s degree in Printmaking from Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda (1997). She has exhibited widely in India and abroad and some of her recent solo exhibitions include Where the Bees Suck, There Suck I, Studio la Città, 2010) and at MACRO, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Roma (2009); Yours Sincerely, Nature Morte, New Delhi (2008). The artist passed away in 2015 in tragic circumstances.
The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art was established by avid art collector Kiran Nadar in 2010, and the museum aims to activate visual and intellectual dialogue and arts appreciation across the country. The museum’s innovative exhibitions and programmes encourage active collaborations from artists and international arts institutions. KNMA is a non-commercial, not-for-profit organisation that aims to foster the development of south Asian arts and culture. The museum’s exhibitions, publications, educational, and public programmes focus on bridging the gap between art and the public and offer audiences innovative ways to engage with both traditional and contemporary art in South Asia.