Layer by layer


Developing a close relationship with not only each child but also the class as a social organism, is something I have learnt to focus on. It has meant becoming very aware of the means to enable collaborative art practices for myself.

 The significance of storytelling, sharing experiences or observations built upon storytelling at an early age provide strong foundations and makes learning a tangible and interactive activity. This is one way for me to engage their entire beings through experience and imagination.


 In the last week of my month-long stay in Goa I began to notice how every child was making connections with each other’s visual sensibilities and finding a rhythm of working collaboratively.


 The studio was now ready for an intervention. Drawing lines and connecting the dots to all our explorations made over the previous weeks, I proposed that both batches of children aged 2.5 to 5 and 5 to 12 respectively, come together to work on a single large canvas.

 Layer by layer, wash-by-wash, they added textures, objects patterns, sometimes removed pigment, they built a simple rhythm and movement in collectively creating a piece of work together.


Collaborations bring a sense of togetherness and joy to the learning experience. It especially thrills me to see children actively appreciating each other’s efforts, and to see that appreciation grow over the weeks of going through the process of working together and making discoveries along the way.   


 I stepped back, watching this process and saw each one of the children play a role in making selective decisions for the canvas that they worked on together, over a period of one week.

 The morning batch would come in and work on it with some guidance following with the batch in the evening come in to see the progress made and took over seamlessly, to add the next layer of elements.


This has been the most exciting process for me. This work was a coming together of all the collected memories from nature and stories shared over the month, along with the studied observation from our studio nature table.  The progression of not just the elements we brought in to the work, but the synergy in terms of collaboration, and the result – the finished canvas — was mesmerizing to watch and left me feeling so full of emotion.

Drawing Room – Goa from Niyati Upadhya on Vimeo.

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Colour Light Shadow Party

Looking back at my years in school, I was never much of a textbook learner. Reading and writing alone didn’t do much to help me retain information. The concepts that have stayed with me the most, and that I remember to date have been those that involved interactions and physically handling objects to understand how things work. Sometimes this was about understanding materials, and other times it’s the experience of being completely consumed in an activity, allowing my imagination to run amok.

In September 2016, I collaborated on with performance artist Mahana Delacour (Paris) in an interactive workshop. Mahana was visiting Mumbai as an artist in residence at WAA Residency, and some of the key elements of her work are interactivity and art therapy. Also being a teacher, she had a really unique way of telling imaginative stories bound by theory and concepts in art.

The play of light and shadow are key elements of all visual art forms, so I planned this session with the intention to teach the kids to observe light. It was a great way to have fun while also discovering how we see light, how shadows happen with respect to the earth, sun and moon, and how the human eye perceives light and shadow.

The session involved a lot of hands-on activity, as the children played with objects, colours and a light source. They observed the change in light as objects were moved farther and closer from the source, the play of colour using cellophane paper in primary colours as well as the changes in results when they were mixed.

Excitement was high as placing the sheets one over another to discover a whole different range of colours made each child feel like they were magicians on stage! Then a shadow play session followed where they built narratives with toy animals and sea creatures and the shadows they cast. They were thrilled to see how the shadows were exponentially larger than the objects themselves.

It was a great introduction to an interactive installation as well, because the entire room was turned into a kaleidoscopic interactive art experience, with the children discovering things with every little action they made. I have always valued the delight of discovering things for myself. And it was satisfying to be able to share that feeling.

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The ships Move through the sea unaware of all the life that filled Its Inky depths.







The ships Move through the sea unaware of all the life that filled Its Inky depths,

Speaks of untold stories from the deaths of the Ocean.


Water colour drawings on paper ,stitched on to cora cloth.

Dyied with fabric paint.


Notes of Remembeing Elsewhere.

Layered fragments of Khirki Extension and Shaadipur. Depot.  Marking, weaving, stories through this short video. Here’s bringing to My Notes of Remembering Elsewhere.

Notes On Remembering Elsewhere from Niyati Upadhya on Vimeo.

KHOJ Peers 2013.


Cult Of The Street travelled to Bangalore.

Cult Of The Street.

Bone setters and Barbers shops  An exploration in mixed media,

documenting these unique professions though photographs, drawings,video, sculpture and sound.

Cult of the Street Niyati Upadhya

This is a compilation of 2 bodies of work that traces the lives of two of Bombay’s most queer professions: the bone setters and the barbers. The exhibit takes viewers thought some of my picked documentation of the city’s streets, which showcases the nature, dynamics and reactions of the people and their business, with the common man, set stage in the by-lanes of Mumbai city and a few other cities.

My exploration led to representations of what I saw, in a mix of different media.  I have documented these dying professions with a keen closeness to the senses.

2 business, 1 human body

While the compilation depicts 2 very different professions, they are both closely linked to the same human body.

Bones speak of fragile bodies, mortal remains, healing and restoration form within.

Barbers shops speak of beautification of the body, sexuality, male power, and vanity depicted through the curiosity as an on-looker/passer by, to something that is considered to be otherwise private.

sayani hajjam1Blogresized

HajjamGiri (3)Blogresized

Cult of the Street travelled  to Bangalore and had a rather happy opening on the 19th of April, at 1 Shanti Rd  An Artist Collective Center, run by Suresh Jayaram and Cop Shiva.

It was great to be doing a show in the very city I have been brought up in, where the seeds of my explorations were first sown.

Being in Bangalore gave me a sense of familiarity, but also came with the extra effort of putting up an entire exhibit in a city I don’t live in anymore. Right from transporting my work to Bangalore, finding the best framers, getting all the props and electronics I needed, finding the right printing support and finally setting up the show was a great learning experience.

1Shanti Rd setting up

1Shanti Rd

For me, it was also special to see my work up in a space totally removed from the space it originated from. Putting up a show also brings with it a sense of separation from my own work. The minute the frames and sculptures find their place within the defined walls of a gallery, there is a detachment, where I stop viewing the work as my own, but as a subject that finds interesting reactions in those that come to view it. Gauging what people take back from what you have left them with, completes the entire process of creation, for me.



Having this opportunity to share the Cult of The Street story with people I have grown up with, as well as those I have come to know through my recent interactions as an artist, was a special one. It was good to see the sense of curiosity in the minds of people who visited. There were lots of questions about the subject and why  I was drawn towards it.




And for an artist, it is always nice to see peoples’ reactions to something that is new to them, but that grows more and mroe familiar to me with every passing show.


Cult of the Street, The Bone setters and Barber Shops.

The Cult of the Street is a series of visual diaries that documents the ‘professional underbelly’ of the Indian city. It is an essay in mixed media, exploring the Naayi and the Had-vaid through photograph, drawing, video, sculpture and sound. The stories of the bone setter and the barber are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant.


Poster Design By Mana Dhanraj.


In you and me.

This installation is about the ephemeral nature of life, and the oneness of human life and water in this cycle.

Retracing, revisiting,re thinking to Recreate.

To be able to  get to the beginning of the end. Its been a half a year  since i graduated from art school and its been a time of  restlessness, being blank, questioning and a lot more. This was an installation I worked on in my graduating year, as part of my final year project.  This piece was inspired by its process of transformation.

In this work a spinal cord lies in a bath tub of water, dissolving soon after immersion,and leaving no traces of its presence, It represents human life’s transient nature, and the tie that binds life from birth to death.  This installation is about the ephemeral nature of life, and the oneness of human life and water in this cycle.