An enormous diptych created by the artist in 2011, An Eye, A Tooth consists of two panels covered with thousands of felt bindis in intricately arranged patterns. Since the mid-1990s, Kher has appropriated the bindi in all its various shapes, colors and forms to create complex works that are visually mesmerizing, technically time consuming and conceptually multi-layered. The term bindi is derived from bindu, the Sanskrit word for a dot or a point, sometimes considered the creative seed or womb of the universe. In India, it is traditionally a mark of pigment applied to the forehead associated with the Hindu symbol of the third eye. When worn by women in the customary color of red, it is a symbol of marriage, yet in recent times it has become a decorative item, worn by unmarried girls and women of any religion and transformed into a fashion accessory. The morphing of the traditional significance of the bindi from a symbol full of latent religious meaning to a mass produced object that has become an increasingly global commodity, is relevant to Kher's work as it is informed by her experiences of having lived and worked in both the UK and India.
Based in Gurgaon, a surburb of New Delhi, Kher works from a massive studio. For her large scale art, she is known to work with an army of female studio assistants, most of them immigrants who have flocked to the metropolis from smaller towns and villages in India. They help her apply these bindis in abstract configurations that resemble plots of migration flows. From a distance you observe clusters and splashes of multi-colored dots and upon close inspection you witness painstakingly applied individual dots in carefully arranged color compositions. The migratory patterns, social roles, traditional rituals, gender relationships and popular culture of India, both past and present are all scrutinized from Kher's unique vantage point. Her appropriation of the bindi has promoted it to the status of icon, an instantly recognizable symbol of and for the artist.
'Artists have been incorporating everyday items into their creations for a long time now, toward various ends: the flat and yet delirious affect of consumerism in Pop Art, Picasso's elevation of found objects into inspired sculpture, Dada's upending of artistic self-regard. What Kher is after is how we weigh what we disregard, how we imbue what we use with reflection, how we look at something inanimate and see in it the ghost of an association based on who we were at the time, what we did, how we moved through it. We carry with us stories of our encounters, and we forget at the same time how important even something random may be to our experience.' (https://www.artslant.com/ny/articles/show/23603-bharti-kher)
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