INTERVIEW WITH HEMA UPADHYAY
Q. Your paintings tend to be narrative, including images of yourself. Are they mostly autobiographical or do they relate to larger social issues (or both)?
Hema: It is both, along with many more elements that govern it. For me, Baroda was the place that made me realize the power of saying what I wanted, and in which language. Though it was eventually my shift to Bombay that changed my attitude drastically towards art; my own position as an artist and an individual vis-a-vis the city.
Q. How do you choose the photographic images in your paintings?
Hema: Well for me this concern also came from being a part of Bombay, and my language changed when I shifted to the city in 1998. Language definitely creates a niche for you, as it is purely your own concern. Taking the example of my first show, Sweet Sweat Memories which spoke of Bombay as one of India's largest multicultural metros of India (hundreds of people migrating to the city; a dream destination that speaks its own rhetoric of Acceptance and Rejection; where the idea of acceptance is wrapped up with the idea of rejection). Here, one is constantly confronted with issues related to migration. I am very clearly playing the role of the victim and the narrator in my works. My use of photographs of the self also asserts the position for the Real: Events, Happenings and the Body, contrary to the projection of the plastic bodies. The body is not a body, which faces the camera for a beautiful picture, but reveals the real self. It speaks of the real body which experiences natural changes like a Pimple, a Frown, Fatness, and Lethargy as part of the process.
Q. Could you tell us about your choice of patterns and use of repetition in your work?
Hema: Some of my very recent works use ornamentation and patterns symbolically. The body of works for Acrobats and their Scenes are actually patterns taken from Chinese textiles where the background becomes like a landscape. Here, the Chinese textile pattern speaks about the piracy in the name of brands, and their sweatshops being located in Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai (again relating to my work Dream a Wish Wish a Dream).
Q. Acrobats and their Scenes and Bleeding Hearts are part of different series. Could you elaborate on these works. In particular the introduction of mannequins in your new body of work?
Hema: What you call mannequins in my works are actually figures taken from poser software. I was interested in representing figures of not the working class but people who are treated like dolls or mannequins as you suggest. And poser gives you these figures. Acrobats and their Scenes is a body of work again encircling the city and the human condition. In a sense, I am re-looking at unchanged situations years later. Hence the human is again looked at as the performer/victim of his/her own creations.