Hema UpadhyayHema Upadhyay

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"I like to tell any stories, whether real or imaginative. These are even reflections of one's phobias, shortcomings. The recurring theme in my work is autobiographical. In addition, it is the cathartic factor that becomes the reason to take these objects and convert their ability. Yes…my work is cathartic in process." 

Hema Upadhyay was born in Baroda in 1972, and completed her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in painting and printmaking respectively from the Fine Arts Faculty of the M S University there. In the short time that Hema has had to develop her career (she graduated with her MFA in 1997), she has already taken giant steps and established herself very firmly among the new generation of Indian contemporary artists. 

Upadhyay was the recipient of a National Scholarship from the Ministry of Human Resources, and also has to her credit annual awards from the Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy and the national Lalit Kala Academy for her work in the 10th International Triennale - India hosted in New Delhi. 

Her talent was immediately recognized and Hema has been invited to showcase in her work in many group shows, even whilst she was in college, the most prestigious being the 4th and 5th annual 'Harmony' shows, 'Ideas and Images 2' at the NGMA, Mumbai and 'Mumbai Metaphor' hosted by the Tao Art Gallery. 

Now settled and working in Mumbai, this Baroda artist and her painter husband, Chintan Upadhyay, have collaborated and worked together for many exhibitions. Most recently the duo worked jointly to create billboard and poster art for a show called 'Parthenogenesis' at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery on the campus of the Australian University of New South Wales. Labeled as 'kitsch' by some viewers and critics, the work Hema and Chintan produced is definitely a tongue-in-cheek statement, not necessarily against, but about the mass production and popular imagery that has taken over almost every aspect of urban life. Hema explains, saying, "Besides using pop imagery, our posters take a dig at our hybrid 'global' lifestyle." 

Earlier, in 2001, Hema for the first time exhibited her work abroad, also in Australia. For an installation titled 'The Nymph and the Adult', she sculpted nearly 2000 lifelike cockroaches, infesting the gallery with them, to draw repulsion as well as fascination from her viewers. There was a purpose, however, to this display. At a very politically and militarily tense time in the South Asian Subcontinent, it raised the question on everyone's mind. Would cockroaches be the only survivors? 

In the same year, Upadhyay held her first solo exhibition at the Chemould Art Gallery in Mumbai. Titled 'Sweet - Sweat Memories', the large mixed media on paper works on display were inspired by the suicide of one of her neighbours as well as the confusion that arose in her as a result of living in an urban sprawl where dream and aspirations are both excited and forcefully repressed. The title work in this show encapsulates these feelings perfectly. It is a close up of a mouth, wide and smiling, only to reveal the decay and decadence that lurks everywhere. 

Hema Upadhyay lives and works in Mumbai.


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