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Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art Transforms Gallery into Hallucinatory Space
Bharti Kher, Solarum Series, Fiberglass, metal, 274 x 335 x 304 cm. 2007. Photo: Bhartholomew/ Courtesy the Artist and Arario Gallery

LONDON.- Transforming the gallery into a hallucinatory space of myth and synthesis, artist Bharti Kher presents a new installation at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art from Wednesday 30 April. Raised in London, educated in Newcastle and now living and working in New Delhi, Kher creates surreal environments that are both fantastical and seductive.

In her Solarum Series sculptures, the artist draws upon the symbol of the tree as an oracle figure or magical device. The uncanny symbol of the tree is a motif that cuts across ancient cultures, occurring notably in both Greek and Indian mythology. In Solarum Series, the two sculptures transplant these archaic myths into a landscape of biological technology, referencing the advances of cloning and rejection personified in the fallen tree. Instead of leaves or fruit, the branches of Solarum Series bear the heads of chimerical creatures. Fleshy resin is stretched across their metal frames, and the monstrous menageries ape the beauty of Nature. Kher substitutes the organic liveliness of a forest with a darkly theatrical and fantastic vision, shrouded in the myth of the speaking tree.

Beyond these phantasmagorical sculptures are a series of panel works. Using the sign of the bindi – the traditional Hindu dot representing the ‘third eye’ placed between the two eyes – as a repeating mark and symbol of time, the surface of the canvas is rendered into richly patterned colour fields. They seem to move with their own vibrant intensity. Despite their surface beauty, these paintings exploit the artifice of decoration and ornament, and imply the presence or trace of human order.

Critiquing the tropes of colonial exoticism and seductive imagery, Kher’s installations challenge the manners and methods of representation. The disruptive beauty of her work presents new ways to conceive and confront our own realities.

Bharti Kher was born and raised in England, and returned to India after studying Fine Art and Painting in Newcastle upon Tyne. She now lives and works in New Delhi. She has exhibited her work extensively throughout the world, with her first major solo show in 1993 at AIFACS, New Delhi, and her work was included in the prestigious Art Unlimited gallery at Art Basel 2007. Her most recent New York exhibition, ‘An absence of assignable cause’ opened to great acclaim at Jack Shainman Gallery last year. Kher’s work is part of several important public and private international collections. She received the Sanskriti Award in 2003 and took up the French Government Residency the following year.

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