At the intersection of  traditional and contemporary, Indian artist Bharti Kher elucidates cultural and identity in her artworks. Being born in London to an Indian family, the sculptor, painter, and photographer is well-known for her encompassing experiences of  British and Indian roots, often incorporating how customs and contemporary life coexist.  

Beyond the vivid colours and minute details, the artist creates elaborate tapestries that explore the socioeconomic intricacies along with cultural crossings laced with feminism and other social issues. Thus, Kher’s work is mostly reflection of the United Nations Sustainable development Goals for Reduced Inequality and Gender Equality.

Bharti Kher started her artistic journey in London, where she studied fine arts. Inspired by many cultures and experiences, Kher set out on a path that would ultimately establish her distinct artistic identity. Later, she found herself lured back to her native India, where she learned about a vibrant mosaic of customs, ideologies, and social dynamics that would later provide the setting for her striking artwork.

In Kher's artwork, the bindi, which is often connected to religious and cultural importance, has a new meaning. She questions conventional gender conventions and investigates the flexibility of identity by utilizing thousands of bindis to create large-scale sculptures and installations.

The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own by Bharti Kher. Image courtesy of Perrotin.

First used in 1995, her usage of bindi, a precious accessory that many South Asian women can be seen wearing, is an integral part of most of her works. One of her works,  The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own, features a life-sized female elephant kneeling on the floor adorned with bindis shaped like tiny sperms. Sperm-shaped bindis slithering across the sculpture’s the idea of futuristic femininity is also explored in her other artworks like her 2004 work Arione and 2006 Arione’s Sister which combine elements of animal and human form. 

A strong voice for feminism and the experiences of women can also be heard in Bharti Kher's works. She frequently uses animal imagery, especially the crossing of people and animals, in her installations and sculptures. These works explore themes of transition, fertility, and the fuzziness of the line between human and animal existence. They serve as a metaphor of the complexity and ambiguities of womanhood. 

Overall, Kher’s art serves as a catalyst for conversations on reducing inequality and promoting gender equality, transcending gallery spaces to engage with wider audiences. Her art is not merely a display of creativity but a vehicle for advocacy, challenging societal norms and inspiring conversations that lead to action.  

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