Artist Dia Mehhta Bhupal attempts to transform ordinary spaces into repositories of memory
A bright pink waiting room stands out amidst the white walls of a gallery in Ballad Estate. The room, a temporary construction is a contrast from the brown facades awash with dappled golden light unique to the neighbourhood. It’s a slice of artistic architecture by photographer and artist, Dia Mehhta Bhupal. In her first solo show in Mumbai, Bhupal attempts to capture everyday albeit transitional spaces. Choosing spaces such as a play area, a public toilet, a cinema, and a library amongst others, the artist and photographer has put together spaces that we regularly visit, but in which we disconnect from where we are.
After constructing each site with finely spun magazine-paper rolls, Bhupal photographed her creations. Making them look as hyper-real as possible. Massive glossy diasec prints line the walls surrounding her pink waiting room, urging the viewer to question their own memories with those places. “My series, [about] public spaces corner you to a contemplative experience, limiting us to observe, reflect and experience the basic realities,” explains Bhupal. She spent nine years in compiling her thoughts into a larger narrative, eventually bringing it all together in her Hyderabad studio.
Talking about her process of creation Bhupal who is — an architect, craftsperson, designer and photographer — says that her rooms are created with wasted paper, magazines, newspapers and old cardboard boxes. “Each roll comes with its own text to create a myriad of stories from different cultures, time periods and genres. It creates a unique environment –a parallel to the randomness of individuals experiencing public spaces,” she says.
The artist believes her photographs are a layered personal experiences in a single frame. That Bhupal is interested in the constructed image is highlighted by writer Skye Arundhati Thomas in the exhibition note as, “the ultimate paradox of photography: where reality is both extended and replaced.” Through her work, Bhupal observes the different ways in which viewers respond to the sets, via the photographs. The visuals, she says behave as a prompt, that will conjure one’s own images and experiences from the subconscious.
Whether it’s the steel walls of an elevator, the compact seats of an airplane, or the brightly coloured shapes in a play area, each space reeks of absence. One that you have to fill yourself.
The artist thrives on this thought, elaborating with “you stop and think about it: either your past experiences with that space, where you think it is – what it is. Everyone reacts to it differently. That gives me a lot of satisfaction, knowing that difference exists.”
Watch This Space is ongoing at Pundole’s Ballard Estate until February 13