"Making art and being an artist is a philosophical task than merely producing objects."
Life in the Atelier, work in progress of the installation work, Hema (in green) tasting the food of her mother who was preparing a delicious lunch for us. Snapshot by Selina Ting, 2010. ©InitiArt Magazine, 2011.
Meeting Hema Upadhyay
[16 December 2010, Saché, France]
The meeting with Hema was fixed in 3 minutes through 4 emails when we happened to be both online at 2am; one in Saché, one in Paris. When we finally met, Hema told me that she’s an impatient person and that’s why she’s so perfectly fitted for Mumbai’s speed and chaos. Hema’s mother, of Pakistan origin, shakes her head while confirming to us what a restless child Hema was. Yet, I suspect that when I looked at the images of her 2,000 handcrafted cockroaches (all done by her, alone) and the matchsticks constructed chandelier. Hema is one of the most open and warm-hearted persons I have met. "I love your interviews!" The first thing she said when we met. There is no need for warm up, perhaps that’s one of the expressions of her impatience.
So rather, we tried to “cool down”. It was freezing cold in Saché last December. Yet, we decided to have a little walk in the “forest”. As our vision stretched over the vast open land, Hema said, “Once I am outside, the nature was too vast for me to understand my proportions.” Hema had the house, the studio and the forest completely at her disposal, yet, she preferred to work indoor where her proportions become “right”.
View of the house in Atelier Calder. ©Atelier Calder / Calder Foundation (NY). Photo Courtesy of Atelier Calder & Calder Foundation (NY)
Hema led me upstairs to see her bedroom. Did Calder sleep on the same bed? I joked. She laughed proudly, “Yes, they keep everything here”. Let’s call it “The Surfing Bed of Art” – Is there any single bed that has served so many great artists (and their lovers)? Around 37 internationally renowned contemporary artists had slept there – Jimmie Durham, Ernesto Neto, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Marina Abramovic, Julian Opie, Sarkis, Jessica Stockholder, Tomás Saraceno, Jeppe Hein, just to name a few. Next to the bedroom is an “open-door policy” bathroom – another huge empty room with a bathtub stands lonely and rather embarrassingly at the centre, facing it, huge windows! I wonder if Hema really finds her proportions inside?!
Special thanks to Corinne Bouvier and Guillaume Blanc of Atelier Calder for organizing the visit. Gratitude to Lily Lyons and Sandy Rower of Calder Foundation (NY).
14 March 2011, Paris.