Hema Upadhyay: The Glass House

19 May - 2 June 2007

Hema Upadhyay was an Indian artist based in Mumbai. She was known for photography and sculptural installations. She was active from 1998 until her death in 2015. 


The Glass House


Upadhyay's show, entitled 'The Glass House', spanned all three floors of Grosvenor Vadehra's London premises in St James's, before travelling to Italy.  


In 'The Glass House' Hema tackles notions of migration, isolation, of a global sense of displacement, and the need to belong. In her work Dream a wish, wish a dream Hema recreates the Dharavi slum, situated in India's financial capital Mumbai, on a 3D micro scale. In this work Hema reflects on the reality of her newly adopted city "Mumbai, where space is all but real estate, and where the landscape proliferates with duplex slums and sky-scraping monstrosities. Here, real space is built of fake concrete and fictive spaces concretise into the real." Hema conjures up an image of a world that exists literally below the surface, mysterious and invisible, carrying suggestions of secrets and lies, romance and violence.


Other works included in the exhibition are large format watercolours that demonstrate the largely autobiographical aspect of Hema's work.  In these mixed media works Hema incorporates photographs of herself, thus becoming the visible protagonist.


Hema was awarded the 10th International Triennale-India, New Delhi in 2001. On display was her much discussed work The Nymph and the Adult which features nearly 2000 life size cockroaches seemingly running across a bare white wall. The viewer is both repulsed and yet fascinated by the horridly life-like creatures. Hema's work draws our minds to the politically and military tense situation in the South Asian Subcontinent. One is forced to remember the myth that in the invent of nuclear holocaust these creatures may be the only living creatures to survive.


Hema's work convincingly addresses issues that straddle the politics not only of gender and sexuality, of communalism and consumerism, but also of education in a bustling and continuously predatory urban environment.


Hema Upadhyay has exhibited internationally in both solo and group exhibitions including: 'The Nymph and the Adult', ArtSpace, Sydney, Australia in 2001; 'Have We Met?', The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Japan in 2004; 'Indian Summer', Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris in 2005; 'Parallel Realities-Asian Art Now', The 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Blackburn Museum, Blackburn, UK in 2006. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition