“THERE IS NOTHING MORE SEDUCTIVE THAN COMPLEXITY”
OUTSIDE her studio in Gurgaon, there is an ancient Banyan tree. There are also shattered mirrors and also an old wooden stool. A flower bed awaits the seasonal bloom. Inside the postmodern set up across multiple floors of artist Bharti Kher’s workspace, there is a folder named ‘Bindi Simplicity’. You are almost tempted to trespass. There is much more to Kher, who came to India at 23 for a vacation from her home in England and never went back, besides the fact that her work fetches the highest price among Indian women artists in the world. Though trained in painting at Newcastle Polytechnic in the UK, she learnt sculpture here and emerged as a force to reckon with. Using everyday objects and mixing them with diverse elements
to arrive at a new essence, the artist, who had a major retrospective of her work at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Canada in June this year, talks about success, life in India and gender politics in art.
What is it about India that has kept you hooked?
The colours here. It’s the immense range that the country offers in every respect, and not just artistic. The absolute chaos is enchanting. The mechanism that moves the country never fails to inspire me. The fact that there is no stillness and lot of electricity in everything binds me to this continent which people call a country.
How does your gender reflect in your work? After all, you admit to be a feminist.
For me, it’s very simple. My work is about myself, my life, my body, and experience of the world. And because I am a woman, I would not know what it would be to like to think like a man. Even when I say I am a feminist, I am not just talking about a focal point but everything around it. Frankly, in this particularly challenging country, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the female form—religious, iconography, censorship, sexuality, how this gender is looked at and controlled and patriarchy. And I choose to talk about it sometimes.
What about that certain gloom across your work?
It’s not gloom, but darkness. Don’t be scared of using that word. After all, it is the antithesis of light. As an artist, I have to take a 360-degree view of emotions, no? The reason I make my work is not to make you feel happy; that’s not my job. For me, it’s important to move through emotional responses. We are multi-dimensional and complex beings with strengths and vulnerabilities. They both have to be shown. Complexity is interesting.
Bharti Kher, 49 Artist, GurGAon