Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Works by Bharti Kher at Parasol unit, London

Several of prominent sculptures and installations by the renowned contemporary Indian artist, Bharti Kher, are on view at London’s Parasol unit.

The phenomenal, life-size elephant, ‘The skin speaks a language not its own’ (2006), made of fibreglass and covered with serpent- or sperm-shaped white bindis, bears a symbolism that leaves viewers uncertain about the animal’s condition. The title of the work, always an important component of Kher’s works, suggests that physical appearance and inner values are often in conflict.

Another prominent sculpture in the exhibition, ‘Solarum Series I’ (2007–10), is a 9-foot-tall fiberglass tree, its branches covered with hundreds of what seem, at a distance, to be golden autumnal leaves of extreme delicacy. On closer inspection, one sees that these leaves are actually miniature, waxy-looking heads of various fantastical creatures. Also on show is her ‘The deaf room’ (2002-11), a sculpture made of dark glass bricks.

It’s seemingly a strictly aesthetic minimalist work, but when one learns the origin of its bricks it begins to reveal its feminine bias and a wealth of symbolism. The barely translucent dark bricks are made from melted glass bangles, those that Indian women traditionally wear in multiples on their wrists. The merest hint of the radiant glow of bangles only becomes apparent when the bricks are exposed to light behind the gestural clay build of the work. ‘The deaf room’ stands for the absence and memory of a woman, in an emptied room.

Finally, ‘Warrior with Cloak and Shield’ (2008), a life-size fibreglass figure of a woman adorned with exaggeratedly huge stag’s antlers, is part of a series of hybrid half-human, half-animal figures, which again testifies to Kher’s non-abidance mind and unflinching imagination.

Giving an insight into her practice, an accompanying note states: “She is perhaps best known for her elaborate and stunning bindi dot paintings: abstract, swirling constellations of colorful bindis glued to flat surfaces that create unique imagery somewhere between being illusory and hyper-realistic. But in recent years her artistic creations have become increasingly bold and unrestrained, several examples of which are on show in the exhibition.”

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