Bharti Kher, Contemporary Indian Art

Bharti Kher. Photo: Courtesy the artist
Bharti Kher. Photo: Courtesy the artist

Born in 1969 in London, United Kingdom from Indian parents, Bharti Kher is a contemporary British-Indian artist. Her areas of expertise are painting, collage, photography, installation, and she had worked with sculptures too. She had made great use of Indian symbols as Elephants and Bindis, the decorative dot that India women use in her forehead.

After studying design and painting at the Newcastle Polytechnic, where she graduated with a B.F.A in painting in 1991, Bharti traveled to India, where she met and married the Indian artist Subodh Gupta. She actually lives in New Delhi, where she moved when she was 23. She had two children with Subodh Gupta.

The Skin Speaks

Bharti Kher – The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own, 2006. Photo: Courtesy of

In 2006 Bharti produced one of her most important works called “The Skin Speaks A Language Not It’s Own”. This is a sculpture that features a life-sized elephant made from fiberglass and delicately adorned with white bindis all over its skin. This work shows the ability of this artist to incorporating Hindu mythology and Symbols on her artworks.

Bharti had said that “The less you say about some of the works the better. I think you just have to experience it”. With her art, Bharti tries to evoke psychological experience through the power of objects and materials. She has an eclectic range of sculptural installations of large size. “I’m still not interested in the thread that’s supposed to connect me altogether with my work or otherwise. We are all hybrids and totally unpredictable. I wanted to make that apparent in my practice”, she says.

The presence of elephants is Bharti’s works are not the result of chance, elephants are very respected in the Indian culture and these animals are protected from being killed. The elephant is a sacred animal to members of the Hindu religion and in India more than 80 percent of the people are Hindus. They are seen as the living incarnation of Ganesh, an elephant-headed deity who rides over a little mouse which is one of their most important gods.

contemporary Indian Art

Bharti Kher – Sirius, 2016. Photo: Courtesy of

Her Paintings like Sirius from 2016, mix Hindu style with contemporary art expressions. This painting form by Bindis on a painted board is an authentic piece of contemporary Indian Art. The bindi has an important place in her work. It symbolizes a place of connection of the religious rituals with the common things of everyday life and aesthetic beauty. Bindis are viewed as the point at which creation begins and they are described as “the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state”.

Through the last decades, Bharti had achieved a great artwork form with many sculptures and collages. She has created hybrid beings mixing oppositions of gender, race, species, and social role. Kher has presented her works widely since 1993. Her works are included in the collections of different important art centers as the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), the Rockbund Art Museum, the Tate Modern in London, the Freud Museum London. Her work has been additionally shown at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Jack Shainman Gallery, and the Frieder Burda Museum.

International recognition

Left: Bharti Kher, Virus VII, 2016. Right: Bharti Kher, An absence of assignable cause, 2007. Photo: Maegan Hill-Carroll, Vancouver Art Gallery.

In 2016, the Vancouver Art Gallery presented BHARTI KHER Matter. This was the first major retrospective in North America of Bharti Kher. Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, and curated by Daina Augaitis and Diana Freundl. The exhibition was presented as part of the Gallery’s Asian Art Institute initiative, which featured contemporary, historical, and emerging international and local artists from Asia.

This exhibition incorporated elements of painting, photography, and sculpture that have been the hallmark of its practice over the past two decades. Bharti’s works display an inclination towards intrinsic love, human drama, and how the realities of human life are perceived in our modern times. She has kept some repeating patterns in her paintings during her career. These patterns came from her student years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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