Bharti Kher / India b.1969 / The skin speaks a language not its own 2006 / Fibreglass and bindi / ed. 1/3 / 167.6 x 152.4 x 457.2cm (irreg., approx.) / Purchased 2007. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist


Not Currently on Display

The bindi is associated with the Hindu symbol of the ‘third eye’. Traditionally a mark of pigment applied to the forehead, they have since become commercially manufactured, decorative stick-on items. Bharti Kher uses the bindi to transform objects and surfaces, inflecting her art with a range of meanings and connotations from both historical and contemporary periods.

Elephants are important symbols in many south and south-east Asian cultures, and feature in processions and ceremonies across the region. In Buddhism, a white elephant is associated with wisdom and royalty, while the important and popular Hindu deity Ganesha has an elephant’s head. In this work, Kher uses the symbolism of a dying elephant, its surface overwhelmed by thousands of bindis, to contemplate the potentially destructive effects of popular culture, mass media and consumerism on the culture of India.

London-born artist Bharti Kher completed art school in the early 1990s, at a time when the Young British Artists (YBA) movement was just emerging.  Many of the group rejected the prevailing art establishment and courted controversy. Kher’s decision to move to India gave her a new platform on which to extend and develop her practice, assuming a unique vantage point as an observer of both Western and Indian cultures. In her work, Kher contends with the paradoxical dilemmas and moralistic conventions of contemporary society and draws on diverse artistic methods and tactics. Some of her most distinctive works are two- and three-dimensional collages and sculptures covered with a textured surface of stick-on bindis.