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Artist Profile3
Bharti Kher’s bewildering body of work
Artist Bharti Kher is known for her evocative, deeply personal, and layered imagery through which she explores issues of tradition, identity and multiplicity. There often appears to be at play a dual-aesthetic in her work. Her practice revolves around pangs of dislocation and transience that invariably reflect her own, largely itinerant journey.

Born and brought up in the UK, she first joined the Middlesex Polytechnic, London (1987-1988), and later studied art at the Newcastle Polytechnic (1988-1991). She came to New Delhi in the early 1990s. The very concept of home as the location of culture and identity is understandably challenged in her work.

Her unique perspective and approach facilitates an outsider’s ethnographic observation of urban India - class and consumerist streaks - adding a new dimension to her work that involves an autobiographical examination of identity.

Bharti Kher’s creations tend to carry redemptive power in every new environs. They move from the morphed body to surfaces that are encoded with curious patterns of immigration, exile, and the crossing of existing boundaries. It’s apparent that her work locates itself at the crossroads of ecological and technological dystopias.

She is renowned for her usage of the ready-made bindi as a motif. The tiny red decorative dot with ritualistic significance serves as a means of transforming surfaces and objects. It brings to her practice a wide range of connotations and meanings in context of both historical and contemporary time frames. The bindi transcends its peculiar mass-produced diminutiveness to become a powerful symbolic and stylistic device, creating visual richness, leading to a multiplicity of meanings in her work.

The artist is also known for her majestic menagerie of resin-cast animals, covered with it. She makes with it large-scale, wall-based panels. If not working on those succinctly sensual abstract surfaces with the bindi, the artist turns to digital photography and sculpture for exploring kitsch and consumer culture.

Her significant solo exhibitions include ‘Virus’ at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art , Gateshead, England (2008); ‘Sing to them that will listen’ at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France (2008); ‘An Absence of Assignable Cause’ at Jack Shainman Gallery, NY (2007); ‘An Absence of Assignable Aause’, Nature Morte, Delhi (2007); ‘Do not Meddle in the Affairs of Dragons, Because...’, Gallery 88, Mumbai (2006); ‘Quasi-, mim-, ne-, near-, semi-, -ish, -like’, Gallery SKE, Bangalore (2004); ‘Hungry Dogs Eat Dirty Pudding’, Nature Morte, Delhi (2004); ‘The Private Softness of Skin’, Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (2001), and Bose Pacia Gallery, NY (2000). She received the Sanskriti Award in 2003 and took up the French Government Residency the following year. Nature Morte brought a catalog documenting a decade of her works in 2007.

Her recent major group show participations include ‘Indian Narrative in the 21st Century: Between Memory and History’, Casa Asia, Madrid, Spain; ‘Shifting Shapes. Unstable Signs’, Yale University School of Art, New Haven CT; ‘Indian Highway’, Astrup Fearnley Museum Oslo, Norway; ‘The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today’, The Saatchi Gallery, London; ‘Who`s Afraid of the Artists? - the Pinault Collection’, Palais des Arts de Dinard, France; a show with Yayoi Kusama and Eva Rothschild, Marianne Boesky Gallery, ‘Conflicting Tales – the Burger Collection in Berlin’, Temporary space at Zimmerstrasse 90-91, Berlin, Germany; ‘Les Artistes Indiens d’Aujourd’hui’, Palais Bénédictine, Fécamp, France; ‘Nature Nation’, Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel; and ‘Re-imagining Asia’, The New Art Gallery Walsall, the UK.

Bharti Kher recently featured in the much talked about travelling exhibitions ‘Chalo! India’, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea, and Essl Museum, Austria as well as ‘Indian Highway’ at Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, Norway. Explaining the core of her practice, she has stated: “There is no fixed strategy in my work. When I made some works over the years, I couldn’t really hold the thread, which linked it all together… and then one day, being optimistic, I thought the world to be a positive place where all things co-existed chaotically and awkwardly as life marched on, so it was all right to lose the threads sometimes.”

To sum up, her trans-national perspective – based on her personal experiences and observations - engenders both personal and ethnographic observations of contemporary Indian life as well describing a long-term negotiation of her identity in India.