Bharti Kher

Born 1969, London, England
Education: B.F.A in painting from Newcastle Polytechnic, 1991
Lives and works in Gurgaon, India.

Bharti Kher’s is an art of dislocation and transience, reflecting her own, largely itinerant life. Born and raised in England, the artist moved to New Delhi in the early 1990s after her formal training in the field, and today, like most of her contemporaries, frequently travels the world attending to exhibitions of her art. Consequently, the concept of home as the location of identity and culture is constantly challenged in her body of work. In addition to an autobiographical examination of identity, Kher’s unique perspective also facilitates an outsider’s ethnographic observation of contemporary life, class and consumerism in urban India.

Presently, Kher uses the ‘bindi’, a dot indicative of the third eye worn by the Indian women on their foreheads, as the central motif and most basic building block in her work. Bharti Kher often refers to her mixed media works with bindis, the mass-produced, yet traditional ornaments, as ‘action paintings’. Painstakingly placed on the surface one-by-one to form a design, the multi-coloured bindis represent custom, often inflexible, as well as the dynamic ways in which it is produced and consumed today. The artist is also known for her collection of wild and unusual resin-cast sculptures, embellished with bindis, and her digital photography.

Kher's way of working is radically heterogeneous, encompassing painting, sculpture, text and installation. Central themes within her work include the notion of the self as formed by multiple and interlocking relationships with human and animal bodies, places and readymade objects. She creates forms of hybridity in an unpredictably evolving oeuvre that pushes materials into being “something that they may not quite want to be”. She links the apparent abstraction of her paintings to psychosocial figurations in her sculpture, and this dissonance foregrounds the contradictions in a series of increasingly disparate unions. She taps into diverse yet unlocatable mythologies and the numerous associations that a place or material can evoke. Kher’s work has been compared to a field of psychic disorganization in which all references begin with an act of refusal. Gayatri Sinha describes this refusal as not to “accept things as they are, a desire to interfere with their stability – textual, or iconographic, their use or their location.”