What Are We?
Material: hand written text, long grain rice, handmade paper
Hema Upadhyay, born in 1972, did her BFA in Painting and her MFA in Printmaking at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Barorda, India. Her work is an allegory reflecting her personal experiences of dislocation, nostalgia and gender. A woman living in modern India, migrated to Mumbai and originating from a family living in pre-partition Pakistan.
In the museum, Upadhyay presents What Art We? a tapestry of rice grains placed together to compose a landscape of colored textures feeding our spiritual hunger. This abstract symphony urges us to come closer and pay attention to the miniature quotations by writers, philosophers and spiritual guides inscribed by a group of Indian craftsmen on each grain.: "Sticks and stones shall break my bones, but words shall never hurt me" (Scottish proverb); "He that will be angry for anything will be angry for nothing" (Sallust); "There are four steps to accomplishment: plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, pursue persistently. Up, sluggard and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough" (Benjamin Franklin); "He who foresees calamities suffers them twice" (Porteus).
Upadhyay's production oscillates between the imposing awe of her installations and the meticulous delicacy of their components. Size and detail are common features of her works, which investigate the nature and power of Mumbai/Bombay: large-scale installations and condensed boxes using lights and dioramic elements to reinvent Mumbai's sublime and ignoble aura. There, the audience takes the position of a voyeur and turns into an Alice-in-wonderland, perceiving reality from different angles and standpoints.