This year The Cultivist partnered with Parley, a leading company addressing major threats towards our oceans, to create a special eco friendly holiday gift. We collaborated with artist Bharti Kher, who's work's unwavering relationship with the body, its narratives, and the nature of things, felt perfect to create a special edition Parley tote bag. Read below to explore her practice further.
How do you see the process of designing a wearable item and making fine art, such as your installations or paintings, differ? Do you go into these projects with a similar approach?
My sensibility to touch cloth and drape came from both my parents who were in the fabric trade. My mum is a brilliant seamstress and a lot of my childhood was spent in her fabric shop, dressing up the mannequins and organising yards of fabric rolls. This has continued to the studio, where I make use of fabric and saris in a way that pushes the metaphor of material to work for me. Fashion has always interested me and i do think that clothes identify who and what you are. Both disciplines are witness to time but differently. Fashion is clearly performative and the body is essential to its utility. Making sculpture is different. The body moves around the object and creates space around it. A play of the Inside/outside. And yet creativity doesn’t really have boundaries and great art and great fashion touch people in the same way.
How has the history of surrealist painting and collage informed your perspective on narrative?
A lot of what constitutes my artistic universe began very early when I was at school and had the fortune of being taught by a really great art teacher. He showed me that working with simple materials, even something small as a line, is always a point of inquiry with infinite possibilities. I was introduced to the great works of Blake, Goya, Da Vinci and the world of many schools of painting. Then of course, my move to India gave me voice as an artist that enjoys the play with maximum sensibility. I love collecting things for the studio and future works. I’m always on the lookout for objects. I am aware that all things have their inherited histories and that’s half of my work done really. But I’m also interested a great deal more in pushing them towards a new history, a type of myth-making. The idea is to forge deeper into the private labyrinths of familiar things. Even the simplest of every-day objects, say something like the radiator, can take a great many years to present its purpose, its tale to me. Ultimately, I’m just a conduit through which the story of this object can be told. The point is to make things I don’t know yet, that I haven’t seen before. Im influenced by a lot of art and none of it.
Your work and installations often involve the incorporation of found objects, how does political ecology inform this process? AND This piece has an aesthetic engagement with the natural environment, how does climate justice influence your art?
Engagement within the sensitive eco systems is subtly connected as pointers in the work through the materials and imagery I work with. When you live in a city like Delhi with Its insane pollution you are far away from a true connection to nature. That’s why I try to go back to nature as much as I can because I crave the connection and its healing potential. I know that nature is our greatest teacher and we have seen her speak more and more to this planet and its humankind. I’m concerned that what we leave behind for future generations will not be enough to live without radical change in how we consume.
The sea is often gendered as she. How does feminism come into play in this collaboration with Parley?
I like making things, most artists do. Do women have a different way of working … maybe they do. I know that having children, carrying both and girl and a boy in your womb is different. Having a relationship with a son and a daughter is different. How is it different …I can’t explain it in words. My body tells me. It isn’t about love, its biology and chemistry and physics, history, geography and humanity. Not all women artists would want to equate their work with their sexuality nor with procreation, family and being a mother, but this is my question and it’s my answer. I speak for no one else. Being a mother and being a woman makes me who I am as an artist. Art isn’t that different to life. But it is subtler and perhaps It is a manifestation of being alive.
Looking forward to 2022, are there any new materials or themes you are excited to explore?
Yes, in September 22 in New York I’m unveiling a large bronze sculpture “Ancestor” in Central park with the Public Art Fund. It’s the 3rd outdoor work I've made in recent years but it will be my largest to date! Then just a short while after that, I will open a solo exhibition at The Arnolfini, UK that will be focussed on drawings as an entry point to my sculpture practice. I’m making new work these days after a hiatus. It’s given space for a shift in the practice which keeps me excited and curious.