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Bharti Kher

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1969, London
Lives and works in New Delhi

Bharti Kher is mostly known for her colossal sculptures, but works in a variety of mediums. Her most significant trademark is the use of the traditional Indian bindi which she uses in her works of all mediums.



Foundation Course in Art and Design Newcastle Polytechnic, BA Honors, Fine Art (Painting)


Middlesex Polytechnic, Cat Hill, London



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The bindi has provided Bharti Kher with an aesthetic language of her own

The bindis for Bharti are potent symbols conveying profound philosophical associations, indicating the third eye (unique vision) of a woman; and also as a medium the artist has developed an appetite for. Even when stripped off their existential value, bindis possess strength to survive as an aesthetic entity. Bharti first encountered this simple forehead decoration when she visited the markets of Delhi and saw the sperm shaped bindis that women wore so boldly. She then soon began to internalise them in her artistic vocabulary. In Squaring the Circle, 2007, Bharti created a visual field of concentric circles with colourful bindis as the medium. The ambiguity of this material works in tandem with what Bharti wants from her audience - a questioning mind.

Bharti Kher, Squaring the circle, 2007, bindis on painted panel.

Bharti Kher explores radical ideas through other clichés like saris and bangles

Apart from bindis as an archetypal presence for Bharti in her works, she uses saris and bangles in her artworks to pose relevant political and social questions. In her works with saris, she refrains from using any body to drape the traditional garment around, but uses structures like pillars, chairs and ladders instead. This absence of a body offers the viewers multiple openings for interpretations about sexuality and desire. Her installation Portrait of a Lady, 2012, has a standing cement pillar with a sari around. The drapery is not a naturalised version like that on a body, raising ideas of sexual norms and its subversion.

Her installation The Deaf Room, 2002-2011, is created using melted bangles to mimic the form of brick walls. This refers to her memory of an image of a pile red bangles amongst the burnt rubble of brick walls during the Gujarat riots of 2002, making her work a witness to the massacre .

Bharti Kher, Portrait of a Lady, 2012, cement, saris, 59.1 x 20.1 x 23.6”.

Bharti Kher, The Deaf Room, 2002-2011, glass bricks, clay, 8 x 8 x 8’.

Bharti's artistic tendency lies in creating the monumental, along with an inclination towards animal subjects

Bharti is intuitively drawn towards generous sizes and prefers creating large works over smaller ones, although her earlier works were smaller in scale. The largeness of her works immediately catches the attention of the viewer and encourages a more physical interaction. Her most celebrated piece, which recorded the highest auction price for the artist, The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own, 2006, is a massive fibreglass elephant spotted with sperm shaped bindis poignantly lying in repose or dead, as one might see it. In An Absence of Assignable Cause, 2007, Bharti produces a colossal larger than life-size imitation of the heart of a giant blue sperm whale. These artworks also show Bharti’s attraction towards animal subjects, appearing quite consistently in her oeuvre, which express her concerns about moribund animals such as the blue-sperm whale and elephants.

Bharti Kher, The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own (detail), 2006, fibreglass, bindis.

Bharti Kher, An Absence of Assignable Cause, 2007, fibreglass, bindis.

Kher questions the patriarchal order

Bharti’s works survey the patriarchal society and its codes. The domestic tyranny against women, the multiple roles essayed by women, repression of women in contemporary India, problems of sex and gender are all intimate concerns in Bharti Kher’s works. Bindi, Bharti’s beloved material itself is a potent icon of Indian femininity. Also many of her sculptures are female. Arione, 2004, Arione’s Sister, 2006, Warrior with cloak and shield, 2008, and Mrs Hera Moon, 2006, are all life size sculptures of hybrid women. In these works, the women, some bare breasted, are standing with great aplomb and certitude. The ability of the self-assured contemporary urban woman to juggle multiple tasks and perform many roles is illustrated in her 2006 sculpture Arione’s Sister.

Bharti Kher, Arione’s Sister (detail), 2006, mixed media.

Bharti's works demand extensive research

Bharti’s works are elaborate and the process of creation equally prolonged. She has a flair for meticulous details. Her research is pedantic. Books on nature and zoology are her reference sources. For her work An Absence of Assignable Cause, 2007,she contacted various natural history museums and with great difficult procured a line-drawing of the heart of a blue-sperm whale. In tune with contemporary studio practices her studio employs a host of assistants to help research and execute the final pieces.

Bharti Kher at her studio. Photograph Raghu Rai.