Not yet titled, 2010
Bindis on paper
Photo: John Jones Fine-Art Photography
Hauser & Wirth is pleased to announce Bharti Kher’s debut solo exhibition at our London gallery.
In her art, Kher gives form to the slightly strange and slightly awkward encounters with the daily rituals of life. Her vision makes the banal wondrous and the quotidian unusual, sometimes even disturbing. Her use of found objects, such as mirrors or furniture, is informed by her own position as an artist located between geographic and social milieus. Her way of working is exploratory: surveying, looking, collecting, and transforming. By bringing to attention the overlooked world with its everyday acts, such as applying the bindi in Indian culture, confessing as a ritual or looking at oneself in a mirror, and then re-assessing their meaning, Kher’s work repositions the viewer’s relationship with the object.
An arcane symbol of fertility, the contemporary stick-on bindi is a popular cosmetic device available in different shapes and colours and is an integral part of Kher’s œuvre. Exploiting their cultural and aesthetic dualisms, Kher uses bindis as an epidermal filter to transform objects. As shimmering signs in the form of waves, constellations, and spirals, Kher’s bindis mediate between codes and symbols and the ritual marking of time.
In the main gallery will be Confess, a room whose interior surfaces are animated by oculi-like feminine bindis, providing a boisterous, almost pagan, counterpoint to the hushed rituals of the confessional. The single light bulb hanging from the ceiling brings with it images of forced confessions in prison cells. The claustrophobia of the domestic realm, a persistent theme in Kher’s work, finds parallels in the staged decorum of the church with cupboards that whisper secrets that oscillate between truth and lies. In the same space, a motorised rocking horse is transformed into a unicorn, its horn marking the arc of time.
A series of medical charts veiled by a diaphanous skin of bindis lines the walls of the American Room. In this piece, Kher plays with the paradoxical nature of the sperm-shaped bindi, at once masculine and feminine, mainstream and esoteric, enduring and ephemeral. Multitudes of these markers provide a psychic filter to the medical charts by drawing our attention to the often painful and unpredictable realities of birthing and the awkwardness of dealing with abnormality both psychologically and genetically.
Kher’s fascination with the interiority of things, from the sanctuary of a private space to cross-sections of a birthing body, brings her unfolding process to the heavily contoured form of a mountain surgically split along a fault line revealing dark, smooth surfaces. Entitled Moving Mountains, the sculpture suggests the impermanence of seemingly immutable objects and the potential of interior rhizomatic space to challenge hierarchic thought.
The artist’s metaphysical explorations are made palpable by Sing. A type of standing bell, the singing bowl is used to induce meditation and support chanting in Tantric Buddhism. Replacing the monk, a mechanical rod powered by a visible motor rubs the mallet around the rim of the bowl to produce a continuous ‘singing’ sound. By placing the bowl in the vault (the gallery is housed in a bank designed by the architect of New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens), Kher initiates a dialogue between metaphysical and material pursuits, absence and presence, while simultaneously marking a specific historical context.