In recent times, a significant number of young artists who explore various aspects of their heritage, as well as the concept of storytelling through their work, appeared on the global art scene. Enchanted by post-colonialism and gender studies, some create exceptional works that perfectly dissect the contemporary moment, however, working in this manner also has a history of its own with the significant pioneers such as Bharti Kher.
This renowned multimedia artist is best known for interpreting the bindi, the decorative forehead dot worn by Indian women in India. By transferring this symbol of femininity onto the canvas, she extended its spiritual and social notion, while at the same time exploring other aspects of the Indian tradition, especially the myths, through a distinctly feminist perspective.
This month, the IMMA in Dublin will open the artist’s solo exhibition, titled A Consummate Joy and focused on the dissemination of the pagan goddesses and the notion of liberated female energy that seems more than relevant in the current moment.
Although working across many media, Bharti Kher is known for focusing on her sculptures; for instance, the early examples of the same represented fantastical hybrid entities that blurred the line, between humans and nature. Governed by the same principles, the artist continues to experiment by appropriating and transforming found objects that stand as the guardians of their own histories.
Rachel Thomas, the Head of exhibitions at IMMA, who curated this exhibition, stated the following:
Bharti Kher’s practice acknowledges and celebrates the archetypes women of great importance from mythology and the past. It is interesting then to have the exhibition here as Ireland has a wealth of Celtic goddesses who were pioneers and shaped history. This exhibition explores these themes with complex narratives of history, duality, and questions the ideas of the ritual itself.
A total of nineteen new and recent works, including sculpture, painting, installation, and watercolors will be showcased within the exhibition titled after one of the selected works called Consummate joy and a Sisyphean task (2019), a sculpture made of wood, copper, steel and red jasper stone. The term "Sisyphean" comes from Greek mythology, and refers to a famous Sisyphus, a figure punished to roll a heavy stone up a hill which tumbles every time. This particular myth is used by the artist as a metaphor for the cycle of life itself which encompasses both Eastern and Western philosophies.
Therefore, the exhibition reflects Kher’s interest in storytelling and myth, that is further explored with the works such as Artemis (2019), also inspired by ancient Greek mythology (Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, and the animals) that is portrayed as the plural principle or ‘many breasted’ goddess.
Bharti Kher emphasized her position regarding the context of presenting her work in Ireland:
Ireland has always been an interest for me in its similarities to ancient Indian history and mythologies; from the worship of pagan goddesses to the practice of oral storytelling and song.
A Consummate Joy will be on display at IMMA, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin from 21 July 2020 until 17 January 2021.
Featured images: Bharti Kher - As dangerous as an albatross, 2019. Clay, cement, wax, copper, 127.4 x 24 x 24 cm. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth; Installation views Bharti Kher, A Consummate Joy, IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2020.