Friday, August 2, 2013

Bindi and thali: peculiar albeit thought provoking motifs

The bewildering bindi as a motif transcends its peculiar mass-produced diminutiveness to become a powerful symbolic and stylistic device, creating visual richness, leading to a multiplicity of meanings in Bharti Kher’s oeuvre.

She is also known for her majestic menagerie of resin-cast animals, covered with it. Born and brought up in Britain, and having studied at Newcastle Polytechnic there, her extensive practice includes sculpture, photography, video, assemblage and collage. The artist has lived and worked in India for close to two decades, since 1993. Though she does not like to call herself a feminist, female identity remains a key element of her work. The truth is, she has stated, there’re fewer successful women artists (in India) who have managed to reach this stage financially.

Both Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher are among India’s top-selling and internationally renowned contemporary artists. ‘The Skin Speaks a Language Not its Own’ (2006), a monumental work by her, created auction price record at Sotheby’s London. The large sculpture, done to a meticulous detail, portrays a female (Indian) elephant brought to her knees in what seems like an untenable position. It fetched $1,493,947 (around Rs7 crore), then setting a new benchmark for any female contemporary artist from India at auction. It, in fact, surpassed the auction price record for her husband Subodh Gupta, and reaffirmed her growing pre-eminence as a top contemporary practitioner with a unique vision.

Subodh Gupta’s wide oeuvre, incorporating paintings, sculptures, performance art and installations, subtly refers Indian tradition and changes taking place in the society. It presents peculiar and humble lifestyle in a recognizable visual idiom. The celebrated artist’s intriguing ideas take shape and materialize in various innovative media like steel, bronze, marble and paint, among others. Different materials and forms are brought into play for their intrinsic aesthetic virtues and as captivating conceptual signifiers, signifying diverse connotations.

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