Remembering Hema Upadhyay: A star that shone short and bright

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Only Memory has Preservatives, 2010, Atelier Calder, Sache, France

December 11, On This Day

Hema at work. Image credit: HuffingtonPost | Via 101 India

Artist Hema Upadhyay (born Hema Hirani), was snatched away quite young from the world of art, at the age of just 43. Her gruesome murder 6 years ago today, on December 11, 2015, had sent shockwaves through the world of art and society at large.

Born in 1972, Hema was active as an artist from 1998 onwards, and based out of Mumbai. She was well known for her photography and sculptural installations.

Where the bees suck, there suck I, 2009, MACRO Museum, Rome, Italy

Her first solo exhibition, titled Sweet Sweat Memories, was held at the Chemould Prescott Road in 2001, characterised by the inclusion of small-collaged photographic self-portraits.

With her work titled Dream a wish-wish a dream, 2006

The same year, she had her first international solo at Artspace, Sydney, and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, where she exhibited an installation titled The Nymph and the Adult – 2000 lifelike hand-sculpted cockroaches, intended to make viewers think about the consequences of military actions.

The Nymph and the Adult, Installation, 2001, Artspace, Sydney, Australia

At her residency at Atelier Calder, Sache, France, her work Only Memory has Preservatives tried to replicate a forest in the studio; Dream a wish-wish a dream (2006) was the first large-scale installation she did, a statement on the changing landscape by migrants who make Mumbai.

Only Memory has Preservatives, 2010, Atelier Calder, Sache, France

Hema put up several thought-provoking installations that explored personal identity, dislocation, nostalgia and gender at numerous shows across India and the world,in China, Australia, France, Israel, Japan and more over almost two decades as a celebrated artist.

The Princesses’ Rusted Belt, 250 handmade clay birds, iron wire, acrylic, watercolours, cotton thread and text on printing paper, dimensions variable, 2011, Studio La Citta, Verona, Italy

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