Review: IAF2016 / Fail Not our Feast: Hema Upadhyay at Chemould Prescott booth, IAF 2016 /JohnyML
Hema Upadhyay’s works displayed in Chemould gallery’s booth at India Art Fair 2016, present a philosophical depth in her works..reports Johny ML from the venue, for Art Tehelka..
“Neither rewards nor punishments; there are only consequences. The disappearance of a sense of responsibility.” “You have gained something else, and for everything you gain you lose….” The lines sound ominous for they are from the last work of Hema Upadhyay, the artist who was brutally murdered on 11th December 2015 night. Titled ‘Home 2015’, we come across this work of Hema Upadhyay at the booth of Chemould Prescott, Mumbai in the India Art Fair 2016. The moment people read the name ‘Hema Upadhyay’, they stand quiet in front of the work; try to make some sense out of the lines that she has cut and pasted across the images that she had painted for the Chemould Prescott Gallery.
The painting of Hema has a night scene perhaps seen from her studio window. Or it could even be an image she had conjured up in her imagination. The image however shows that Hema was looking for a night that was silent, natural and harmonious. Through the branches of a tree that she could imagine from her window and the web that split the skyline into thousands of shards, she saw the chaotic and rhythmic growth of the city like a silhouette. Was she imagining herself as a super woman who could fly from her window into the night and rescue all of those women and men in distress? Was she thinking of those powers where she could change the plight of the city and transform that into a heavenly existence.
Hema Upadhyay was seriously thinking about her city for a long time. Her works during the last five years or so were the embodiment of her concerns over the city that grew not in the gated communities but in the shanties. She saw the real life there and she knew that the energy of the city came not only from the people who lived in highrises but the people who fought for their existence in the shanties. She seemed to be led by a sense of loss, which in hindsight could not have been dubbed as personal. Her artistic concerns were universal despite the fact that she was going through personal problems in her domestic life.
The lines that run through her paintings tell us however a different story. Was she aware of the impending doom? Definitely not, that’s my answer. She must have been trying to be philosophical and deep in her works. But death is an eye opener for the living at least temporarily. Hema’s words and lines change meaning suddenly as death embraced her without forewarnings. Chemould Prescott has the works of Shilpa Gupta too, which in their subtlety speak of the borders between countries and the people on the either side of the border share and eat the same kind of produces. The works, framed drawings made of thread and glue represent the scaled down versions of the length of borders between different countries.