Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hema Upadhyay and Rajesh Ram at Saatchi

Hema Upadhyay and Rajesh Ram draw the viewers’ attention at Saatchi’s ‘Empire Strikes Back’. The latter refers a complex culture, reorganizing and re-branding itself as a thriving new superpower. Purposeful intentions and Lofty ambitions present a wealth of opportunity even while creating dreadful anxieties for the people detracted by their circumstances.

The artist’s sculpture ‘Heavy Load’ made with ingredients like fiberglass, iron, paint has the figure almost bent double with two arms to his right. One hand is desperately trying to hold up his cotton trousers; the other pushes a wire netted sack over his shoulder. On his left side, the bronze figure appears to be holding his ear, listening to the earth with a second hand coming out from behind his head.

The weight appears to be overbearing. His figure, elevated to the statuesque, seems to be crippled by the weight of the consequences of the global food crisis. Objects like vegetables are stuffed into a flimsy wire sack, representing the genuine need for sustenance as global trade. The work celebrates the ordinary individual entrenched in a country suffocating for its numbers.

Hema Upadhyay’s ‘Killing Site’ is done in acrylic, gouache, dry pastel, photograph on paper, aluminum sheets, and resin. The Baroda born and Mumbai based artist employs photography and sculptural installations for the purpose of exploring notions of personal identity, dislocation, nostalgia and gender.

Her work draws on the theme of migration and resultant human displacement. The top of it is based on Mumbai’s dilapidated shanty towns, appearing upside down here. They protrude akin like a canopy over her decorated montage. Miniature cut-outs of the artist standing are there against these elaborate prints - as if absorbed by her social tapestry. Further down, there’s a small naked figure. It appears to be tied and chained in an upright position; a sobering reference to slavery and the social practice of caste inequality.

The upturned slums reference the repercussions and socio-economic inequalities in India, which emerge as a consequence of the relentless urban development.

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