Padma Shri is a recognition of my art: Hemi Bawa (With Images)

April 11th, 2009 - 10:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) Artist Hemi Bawa, who was honoured with the Padma Shri this year, feels that the award is a recognition of her art and a tribute to the artists’ fraternity in the capital where she lives.

“I have been an artist for the last three decades and it feels good to know that my art has been appreciated and noticed. It gives me a kind of satisfaction,” Bawa told IANS in an interview at her residence.

The 61-year-old artist sources her subjects from everyday life and etches them in glasses, a medium that reflects her art and personality.

“I like glasses because of the fact that it is so translucent and traps light in a certain way. It is fragile and yet tough at the same time with natural textures. Glass is a medium of substance. I love light and space and things that are uncluttered,” Bawa said.

The artist is busy working for an exhibition in August. “I am doing a lot of paintings both on canvas and in glass, along with large sculptures, which are more like installations,” Bawa said.

The artist, however, is not switching to large format art like many of her contemporaries. “My work takes on different dimensions. I just felt like creating something which is sizeable - four or five large sculptures, some of which are 7-8 feet high and 12 feet long,” Bawa said. She is working with cast glass, fibre glass and copper-fired glass.

Bawa’s subjects are varied. “They are mostly related to life and nature. Each art is different, but I cannot call it abstract. Some of them are figurative as well and few blend both abstraction and figures,” Bawa says.

For her natural motifs of lotuses and water blossoms, the artist fires pigment into glass with copper highlights, which are also fired on the surface so that they become a part of the medium.

“I usually use electrical furnaces to fire my glass, I try not to blow it. Copper fired in glass has much more substance and strength than blowing it (with a manual blow pipe) on the surface (of the molten glass),” Bawa said.

Born and brought up in Delhi, Bawa has been painting since childhood. “But somewhere along the line, I felt the need for something three-dimensional. I attended a workshop in England and learnt how to work with glass,” the artist said.

Bawa formal brush with art began in 1962 and she was conferred a national award at the Chitra Kala Sangam in 1968. She has since exhibited all over the country and abroad. In 1996, she was commissioned by Coca Cola to create a sculpture for the Oylmpic Games. The eight-foot high Coke sculpture is at the company museum in Atlanta.

The artist usually works with broken sheet glass - the kind found in broken window panes. “But after working with ordinary sheet glass, I have recently imported a little glass from Germany for my show in August,” she said.

Casting and sculpting in glass, says Bawa, is still very uncommon in India because of the complex infrastructure it requires. “Electric furnaces need electric generators and specific space. I need to be in an industrial area,” she said. Bawa’s studio is located in an industry hub at Faridabad, adjacent to the capital.

Bawa does not believe in commodification of art. “For me, it is a passion. If my work sells, it’s great and if it does not, I won’t stop doing what I am doing. At no point have I felt that the market was overshadowing my work.”

The artist believes that the country has a “lot of talent”. “As good as elsewhere in the world. And contemporary Indian art is reflects it.”

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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