Bharti Kher presents a major solo exhibition, Matter, at Vancouver Art Gallery from 9 July to 10 October 2016. The exhibition, curated by Daina Augaitis and Diana Freundl, is the first of its scale to be shown in North America. The exhibition is supported by the Institute of Asian Art and was part of Indian Summer Festival, a city-wide programme of events celebrating Indian culture, from 7-16 July 2016.
Renowned for a practice which explores the complexity of identity, Kher combines themes and objects connected to femininity, spirituality and the cultures of India and elsewhere to create new cultural forms. Through her work, she asks questions about multiculturalism, the relationship between animals and humans, and the way cultures form. Underlying these questions is the broader: what does it mean when we say we are human, person or animal?
In Matter, the exhibition includes sculptural and photographic works, as well as a number of the bindi paintings for which the artist is best known. To make the paintings, Kher takes a recognisably gendered and politicised object and, on a variety of surfaces, arranges multiples of it into intricate, repetitive patterns. In doing so she brings the female body into contact with complicated abstract patterns and creates a way for the bindi - and the woman - to be thought differently, as well as adding a gendering layer to the initial surface.
The technique of re-locating and re-arranging objects, patterns or characters with existing cultural implications into new and insightful hybrids, is one Kher uses often. Whether a sari, an animal form, a goddess or a piece of furniture, the artist brings ostensibly disconnected elements together into new compositions. The resulting works comment on the flimsiness of cultural assumption and the fluidity of gender by creating surprising contradictions.
By dismantling associations, Kher’s works redistribute power. The most recent work on display in Matter is Six Women, a sculpture featuring the full-body casts of six naked women. The casts, which sit on six chairs, serve as an intimate, dignified portrait in which the aging female body is given space and respect as part of culture in contrast to the standard ways in which womanhood, dignity and beauty are connected. Six Women was also displayed at the recent Biennial of Sydney in Australia.
Accompanying the exhibition at Vancouver Art Gallery is a comprehensive exhibition catalogue co-published by the gallery and Black Dog Publishing. The catalogue represents Kher’s practice in photographs and features eight texts, by writers including Nancy Adajania, Daina Augaitis, Diana Freundl, Ashok Mathur and Prerna Singh which expand on the themes the artist explores in her practice.
Visit Matter by Bharti Kher at Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver, CN from 9 July to 10 October 2016.