The Anatomy of Imagination – The New Indian Express

Express press service

Bharti Kher has explored a variety of materials over the past three decades of her artistic practice. Through her sculptures, the Delhi-based artist seeks to initiate a dialogue between metaphysical and material pursuits.

His recent exhibition Strange Attractors – named after a mathematical concept – is currently on display at the Still Life Gallery, Chhatarpur. Presenting eight pieces produced between 2017 and 2021 by Kher, this exhibition is an interpretation of the different manifestations of the body and the spaces that surround it.

“The way we move in the world is not random or unnoticed; I want to believe that it is connected to all things and everything. The body is a transmitter and a receiver and all things are seen”, mentions Kher in its concept note. .

In an interview with The new Indian Express, Kher sheds light on his creative process and shares details of the sculptures on display here. Excerpts…

The bindi and the sari were used extensively in the sculptures presented as part of Strange Attractors. What was the idea behind incorporating them into your work, given that the sari and bindi are important in Indian culture.

The bindi has always been for me a sign, a representation. Over the years, it has become my visual language that I use to ask questions about my work. In the sari works, the sari represents both the absence and the presence of a body, but refuses to carry any stereotype. Through the language of sculpture and what we know as familiar (in this case, the sari), I wanted to speak to ideas of femininity, power and sisterhood.

The series of women in sari – like all my works – are constructions: creating their own narratives using negation to suggest presence. They are all women I have known, admired or imagined. Some are friends, some are fictional; almost all of them are magical.

When I read that Benazir Bhutto had been shot five times, it gave rise to the sculpture you see in the exhibit. Benazir, 2021 – with five holes in her body through which I threaded the saris. Cloak for MM 2018 is a similar homage to the sculptural form my dear friend Mrinalini Mukherjee worked with. These are her saris in work.

How does the “body” play an important role in bringing together the sculptures of “Strange Attractors”?

There are eight works in this exhibition. They all describe the space inside and outside the body; psychological, physical and mythical. In Pieta, 2018: the body from within as a mother. Cast of life. Broken to fit into my mother’s body. In Strange Attractor, 2021: The possibility of the body as a shaman with the skin or the power of another.

The entrance to the show to invite visitors. The animal is a metaphor for what we don’t know. In Cape for MM, 2018: The hidden body. To be made invisible, shielded. Magical. In A Natural Unity of Opposites, 2021: the space around the body and all things in balance both outer and inner world.

You mentioned that you return from time to time to your work. Do you think this passage of time somehow adds to the final sculpture?

I’m always on the lookout for objects, and very aware that all things have stories. I am interested in pushing them into a new space; some sort of myth-making or arrival. The idea is to dig deeper into the mysteries of familiar things and allow them to transform into their new selves. Time allows the works to grow in themselves. I’m never really in a hurry to finish anything! I like to live with my work in the studio.

You used a series of ‘found objects’ in your piece ‘A Natural Unity of Opposites’. How do you think these objects add to the meaning of the final structure?

In this work, the objects produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. An object is above and its shadow below, and just as high seeks low and hot cold, so all matter seeks its unconscious opposite.

Because without it there is no momentum, only stagnation. Life is born from the spark of opposites, and the greater the tension between the pairs of opposites, the greater the energy that flows from it. All objects are a mix of things I have in the studio: made, found, old and new.

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