HEMA UPADHYAY AND RAJESH RAM AT SAATCHI
Sunday, February 28, 2010, by Prashant, Art Expo India
Hema Upadhyay and Rajesh Ram draw the viewersâ€™ attention at Saatchiâ€™s â€˜Empire Strikes Backâ€™. 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 artistâ€™s sculpture â€˜Heavy Loadâ€™ 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.
Born 1978 at Jharkhand in rural India, Rajesh Ram grew up in a large family with meager resources. Though resisted by the family he pursued his strong artistic streak and interest by joining the College of Art at Patna in Bihar where he completed his B.F.A before moving to Delhi where he apprenticed with artist Subodh Gupta for a short while. The tribulations he has experienced on the road from Bihar to Delhi get mirrored in his work that plays with the vernacular idioms, making references to the colonial legacy of the language and the power structures that it still withholds. Rajesh constructs these in a new light of urban-rural and rich-poor binaries and the migratory cycle of movement of a rustic and uneducated villager. Rajesh often works in fibre glass and bronze for his sculptures and oils and acrylic for his paintings that visually explore the nuances of local phrases as titles for his work that focus on current economic, social and political scenarios with undercurrents of issues around food, environment and culture. A proliferation of text that runs through the bodies of his subjects with alphabets stenciled on the wings and hovering around, adds a nuance to his work. Rajesh Ram has already scored several shows to his credit including those at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and in London and Australia, besides a couple of public art projects.