WHO: Mumbai-based Upadhyay is originally from Rajasthan, where he was introduced to art through the state’s miniature style of painting and influenced by his father, a teacher at Jaipur School of Art. Searching for new styles, he went to MSU Baroda for his BFA and MFA in painting. His works have been displayed at the Aicon Gallery, London, Seoul Art Center, Korea, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei.
Is there an incident that changed or informed your artistic vision?
The first time I told the people from my village, Partapur, that I was an artist they said, “That’s OK, but what do you really do?” I realised how unaware my own people were of the world of art. That is why I started Sandarbh, a project where artists from all over the world spend a month in the village. Another thing that struck me was how technology creates homogeneity. People in India are passionate about sons over daughters. Sex selection allows them to choose. Baby-picking business is huge. This is what I try to show through the theme of the babies I paint.
What do you call these eerie babies you create?
I call them Chintus.
What is the one vision you have never been able to transform into art but wish you could have?
I’ve always wanted to create these huge installations, of glass buildings covered with reflective mirrors. If you’re outside you get a distorted vision of yourself and of the environment; inside you feel secure. It’s the theme of safety and security with an added sense of detachment.
As an artist, what do you think of the societal notions of sex and love?
Technology changes the idea of relationships. I once created a music video called The New Indian Porn, made from collective MMS clips taken and circulated by various people via their phone cameras. It is private stuff coming out in public. The way I see it, Indians are changing. Their idea of sex and power is changing, all because of technology.
What aspect of your parents would you never want to replicate?
Growing up watching my father, I decided I never wanted to be a teacher. His was a different generation, tied by duties to family and society. I want to be a free soul.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.