India Today - - COVER STORY - By Sukant Deepak

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.

Pho­to­graph by BANDEEP SINGH

Bharti Kher, 49 Artist, Gur­GAon

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