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Details
HEMA UPADHYAY (B. 1972)
Killing Site
signed and dated 'Hema 2007' (on the reverse)
gouache, acrylic, dry pastels and photographs on paper
48 x 72 in. (122 x 183 cm.)
Executed in 2007

Lot Essay

This painting is a reflection of Hema's concerns about migrant workers, their living conditions, and slums in Mumbai. Her recent works have focused on Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia, which houses over a million people. This widespread slum is a large sweatshop where numerous designer apparel and accessories are manufactured for foreign market. Through her paintings, Hema tries to confront the exploitation that thrives in these sites.

Killing Site, with its dark smoke billowing through the smoke stack, covering almost the entire painting, is suggestive of the unhealthy conditions that the workers are subjected to in the sweatshops. The intricate lace patterns represent another level of small-scale industries within this system. The artist places herself, clad in a designer outfit, on a pristine surface just under the smoke stacks, unaffected by the dense and polluted air around her. Likewise the sparrows signify the common bird that is found everywhere and does not migrate, providing a juxtaposition of contradictions between migrants and non-migrants in the city of Mumbai.

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