Similarities between the great Hokusai wave and Hema Upadhyay’s multi-layered work stop as soon as you breach the surface. As Shireen Gandhy, owner of Chemould Prescott Road gallery in Mumbai explains, there is so much more to consider in Upadhyay’s collage once you begin to understand the intention behind it. The artist, herself an implant into a large urban environment, is concerned with issues of migration and immigration, urban and global, and this work is a masterful illustration of a complex social issue that affects every country. To experience the work to its full intended extent we recommend to approach it and examine it as closely as possible. Read the words that comprise the principal visual element – the wave – and you will discover that every word is taken out of a real account of a migrant or an expert talking about this very issue.
Video interview transcript:
Shireen Gandhi: My name is Shireen Gandhi and I run Chemould Prescott Road situated in Bombay. Hema Upadhyay is based in Bombay, she came to the city about 15 – 16 years ago, so this constant change of one house to another is what is informing her work now. The migrating nature of the city, as a result, right from the beginning of her career this has been sort of preoccupation with a work, with her language.
This particular work, which symbolizes the Hokusai Wave, which is very sort of poignant poetic expression of an old ancient print, is symbolic of very poetic re-entry of people into the city. The text is taken from migratory testimonies or from thinkers who talked about migration, so it’s not random and it’s also this wave of people. The text also becomes like the wave of people entering into the city. The skyline in the background could be New York, it sort of represents a city. I think it represents the growth of tower-like nature of the city.
Interview © galleryIntell. Artwork © Hema Upadhyay 2012, and courtesy of Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai.