A glimpse into Bharti Kher’s surreal world

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart attends a solo exhibition and talk by Bharti Kher in London

Bharti Kher & Shaheen Merali in conversation at the Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London

Bharti Kher & Shaheen Merali in conversation at the Parasol Unit Foundation, London

London: The Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art is hosting a solo exhibition of Bharti Kher, on view till 11 November, 2012. This is the first time the artist is exhibiting in a public art institution in London.

The show comprises selected works from Kher’s recent past, focusing mainly on her three-dimensional creations.

Bharti Kher, known best for her ‘bindi’ artworks, like the one featured in our recent Autumn Art Auction, transforms and re-adapts common objects into something surreal yet deeply meaningful in her art. Her works are very personal, reflecting her concerns about society and, on a smaller scale, about herself as well. Through these works, the artist manages to engage a global audience by communicating shared issues and thoughts.

Last week, the artist was at the Parasol Unit for a public conversation about her works with Shaheen Merali.

The Skin speaks a language not its own, Bharti Kher, 2006

The Skin speaks a language not its own, Bharti Kher, 2006. Bindis on fiberglass, Photography: Bartholomew/Netphotograph. © Bharti Kher. Image credit: http://www.parasol-unit.org/bharti-kher

The conversation started with a question about the significance of the bindis in her art. The artist explained that bindis for her represented a conceptual underpinning of what they actually were. Bindis are markers of the day and life of people. They are a second skin, they cover and transform the objects and they make the artifacts hers. They also bring a sense of motion, and in some cases, positivity to the entity they are covering.  For example, her work, The skin speaks a language not its own,represents an elephant on the floor in the process of dying. However, the elephant seems to be lifted through the bindis. In fact, Kher added that her art is full of contradictions as in this work where death is opposed to lightness and movement.

Then the conversation shifted to Kher’s work, The deaf room. This work represents the wall of a house made of glass bricks which was created to raise the memory and become a witness of the Gujarat riots of 2002. The work was inspired by an iconic image of a burnt house where a pile of bangles was visible too. The idea of the glass bricks made from crushed red glass bangles was developed from this memory of the artist. Talking about The deaf room, Kher explained how important the process of making works was, apart from the final result. In fact, the process of how this specific work was made is what informs us about the tragic events that inspired it. Without knowing these details we would miss a great deal of its meaning. Although the leading idea behind this work is of destruction and loss, the bricks offer a positive reading as well, seeming to hold an almost magic power. The bangles they are made of possess innate positive characteristics because of their joyful sound resembling a dance.

The deaf room, Bharti Kher, 2001-2012

The deaf room, Bharti Kher, 2001-2012,Glass bricks, clay. From: Bharti Kher catalogue, Parasol Unit, London, 2012. p. 143

Towards the end of the talk, Merali asked the artist what some of the unsolved questions that she wanted to express through her practice were. Avoiding revealing too much, Kher mentioned that the idea of the body and self still prompts her creativity and imagination, but in her next project she wants to bring it to the next level, but it is still a work in progress.

Contradiction is definitely a striking element in Kher’s practice, and also the dichotomy between allegory and reality. But no matter how surreal her works are they always manage to transmit Kher’s feelings, especially because she believes her works are reconciliatory. The concept that we worry about so many things in our every-day lives but ultimately we are all just small dots is well expressed in her art.

I would really recommend this exhibition, as it is inclusive of a good selection of Kher’s work which describes her practice well. Her strong personality which emerged in the interview and lies in her works too is the result of the thoughts and actions of a contemporary woman brought up in London but who decided to go back to her homeland to find her roots and shape her identity.

Her works communicate a sense of multiplicity and underline that nothing is certain and definite and that life is fast moving but important events must be framed in time.

On October 9, Kher will be signing her catalogue at the Parasol Unit Foundation in London. More information about the exhibition and this event can be found here.

Bharti Kher and Rina Banerjee in Art+Auction Magazine’s 50 Next Most Collectible Artists

Manjari Sihare explores Art + Auction’s June 2012 feature on the most collectible artists of the coming future.

New York: The current issue of Art+Auction magazine features a refreshing list of “50 Next Most Collectible Artists.” The list compiled by the magazine is based on conversations with collectors, art advisors, auction house specialists and dealers. One almost expects such lists to be predictable but this list includes the art of two Indian women artists, the Indian born and New York based Rina Banerjee, and Bharti Kher, who was born in London and lives and works in New Delhi. This says something not just about these artists, but about the market for contemporary Indian art in general, which is often acknowledged at the tail end of its modern counterpart.

The magazine editors emphasize that the artists who have made it to the list “have demonstrated past strength at auction or in primary sales and show promise of continued development. We did not want to merely list the people at the top of the market, but to cite those who might find themselves there in 10, 20, or 30 years.” Editor Benjamin Genocchio elaborates on the parameters for such an evaluation including comparisons with peers of the same generation, as also major next steps in an artist career – a major museum show or a change in dealer representation. Banerjee and Kher are regularly represented in international mainstream art fairs as also at leading museums across the world.  In the recent past, Banerjee had a solo booth at the Hong Kong Art Fair, her first in that part of the world, while Bharti Kher debuted in New York this March at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery. In the coming year, both artists are poised to participate in important shows, beginning with India: Art Now at the Arken Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark. Further, Kher is slotted for a solo show at the Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art in London, a publicly funded institution, while Banerjee is slated to participate in the prestigious 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7) in Queensland, Brisbane.

For the Art+Auction website, click here

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