EXHIBITIONS / ΕΚΘΕΣΕΙΣ
Bharti Kher @ Parasol Unit
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Parasol Unit showcases the solo exhibition of India based artist Bharti Kher with an array of works from the recent past spread over two floors.

Kher’s work is well recognised by the incorporation of the Asian bindi in abstract paintings. The current show encompasses sculptural pieces focusing not only on the female interrelation with culture and society but also its connection with the natural environment and spiritualism. ‘The deaf room’ constructed with glass bricks made of melted bangles previously worn by women is positioned opposite a headless nude (‘And all the while the benevolent slept’) with sprouting metallic veins or routes. The figure holding an ape’s head covered with sperm shaped bindis is an amalgamation of the ancestral realm injected with an intense memento mori. ‘The skin speaks a language not its own’ is an imposing life-size fiberglass sculpture of a female elephant lying quietly on the floor. The entire surface of its skin is covered with innumerable microscopic sperm shaped bindis. While we cannot be sure of the physical condition of the animal, thoughts about the mysteries and miracles of life cycle spring to mind. The placement of ‘Solarum Series I’, a 2.7m tall fiberglass tree whose vein-looking branches fruit miniatures of mythical animal heads, nearby the meditating giant is not coincidental; the artist seems to underline again here the principles of nature and biological evolution. The second floor is dominated by the sturdy presence of ‘Warrior with Cloak and Shield’, a life-size fiberglass female figure partially covered by a large banana leaf and holding her long swirling horns. In some Asian cultures banana trees are inhabited by spirits of young women, could this be a connotation of the human body within the earthly and spiritual realm? A series of 21 mixed media works (‘Contents’) narrate stages of pregnancy and related abnormalities; all images are covered with fertility bindis, a DNA pandemonium shadowing and controlling every phase of life.

Kher’s show is a fertile ground that inspires and stimulates interpretations expanding towards an immense amount of topics. Her visual language explores a palpable sociological context embracing the status of the woman through her existential identity and memory, and, gradually reaches ‘non-physical’ territories. Kher’s work is an homage to the energy that flows within every leaving organism and its elevation via different life forms to reach the ultimate stages of spiritualism. The existence of the bindi throughout the entire exhibition does not only represent the female hypostasis -so essential for the continuation of life- but it also embodies Hinduism’s sixth chakra (Ajna), the third eye, leading towards the state of meditation and wisdom. And, in fact, the idiosyncrasy of all exhibited works meticulously balances a dualism of mortality and spirituality. Kher’s influences from Indian culture and tradition comingled with elements of surrealism and her distinctive personal poetic style have a powerful impact on the viewer, who leaves the exhibition engaged and mesmerised. Kostas Prapoglou

Ziba Ardalan, Director & Founder of the Parasol Unit, talked to REVma -/+ about Bharti Kher’s exhibition and work:

REVma -/+: Where is Bharti Kher’s iconography principally inspired from and what is the process of transferring it into her personal visual language?
Z.A.: Bharti Kher’s iconography comes from many sources and also from personal experiences. Obviously there are various elements -especially visuals- in her work that stem from Indian culture, such as Hindu mythology, use of bindi, bangle and samosa, because India is where she has been living for the past twenty years. But there are equally many other elements that come from other cultures, but for some reasons viewers might not notice easily. Bharti’s work is principally reflection on human condition and she borrows freely from sources she encounters through reading, seeing and experiencing. It is how Bharti transfers this information into her creation and executes arresting works that really matters. Bharti is an incredibly intelligent, forceful and articulate person. She was born into an Indian family in UK and went to art school in UK too. It is only in her early twenties that she moved to India, where she now lives and works in New Dehli. If during her childhood in UK she was intensely aware of being ‘Indian’, after having returned to India, she became hugely aware of human destiny, especially that of women. It won’t be fair to define her work by saying that Bharti is Indian and therefore uses Indian elements. There are countless Indian artists, who might also use Indian artefacts, but their work might not have the power and forcefullness of Bharti’s. Bharti is extremely well read, is open to the world around her and the many cultures she experiences.

REVma -/+: This is the artist’s first public exhibition in London. How is her narrative expected to be perceived by the London audience and, especially, with regards to the underlying sociological remarks?
Z.A.: The exhibition has been received so far with some fantastic feedback in the press, but also by several important personalities in the art world, who have visited the exhibition. The public seems fascinated by the works too. They stay a very long time in the gallery to view the works, because of the intellectually challenging nature of the works. I have known Bharti’s work for many years and visited her in early 2000. I was always stunned by the potential her vast practice had. This exhibition at Parasol unit has been curated precisely with the intention to provide a fair presentation of how amazing and vast Bharti’s practice is. I hope visitors will be pleased to see this and leave Parasol with a better understanding of her work.

REVma -/+: The theatricality and dramaticism of Kher’s work are omnipresent elements, to an extent that one would expect installations of even grander scale and perhaps combined with some sort of performance. Do you see her work progressing towards this orientation?
Z.A.: With Bharti everything is possible, or say we are far from having seen everything with Bharti. We should consider ourselves fortunate to have such an intelligent and resourceful international artist. Her work encompasses so many fields and so many areas. She is one of the most fascinating and daring contemporary artists working in our time with works that are also beautiful, mysterious and poetic. Let’s share her intellectual challenge and immense sensitivity. We are thrilled to have this exhibition at Parasol unit.