Bharti Kher: This Breathing House - 30 September 2016 - 20 November 2016, The Freud Museum London

The Freud Museum is delighted to present a new exhibition by Bharti Kher, This Breathing House.

Mother, 2016, Plaster, wood, metal, 140 x 63 x 96 cm, Courtesy the artist and Hauser and Wirth

Bharti Kher’s inquiry in the realm of the domestic and its dramas finds its perfect counterpart in the Freud Museum London. Equally exploring Freud’s family life as well as his theories, Kher’s new exhibition is a dialogue with the house. Vivid and full of history, the artist calls into being the voices that echo through the house and refers to Maresfield Gardens as an organism, a “breathing entity“. Kher overlays, subverts, conserves and erases memories – of herself and of her own life, of her family and of the people who lived here. She adds traces to the house of conversations past and present that also engage with Freud’s references to the mind as a complex energy system. Kher extends the conversation to include the body.

The first work the visitor encounters is Bloodline (2000). Like a vein this glowing red tower stands in the middle of the house, from floor to ceiling, binding the house together. Consisting of red glass bangles that recollect the sound of women moving through a space, it is an introduction to Kher’s idea of the house as a living breathing space.

Bloodline, 2016, Acrylic pipes, glass bangles, stainless steel, wood, lights, 649 x 7 x 7 cm. Photographed at Rockbund Art Museum

In Freud’s study are life size casts of Kher‘s parents. These sculptures place ideology and material into play. They identify skin as the primary carrier of memory. Kher explains: “What was suggested through the casting of the skin, through the memory of this tactility of plaster and how it impregnates the skin and somehow takes the essence through the pores. … It’s almost as if you look away from somebody to understand, to hear them, to see them… You have to not use the eyes to see, you have to also remember and also somehow bring together your experience and forgive. You are trying to capture their breath, to find the imprint of their minds and thoughts and the secrets of the soul. Give me your essence and be light for that time. What the cast carries only the model can give.”


The Chimera (2), 2016, Wax, concrete, plaster, Hessian fibre, brass, 119.5 x 29 x 29 cm, Courtesy the artist and Hauser and Wirth

The materiality of body casting, conserving and preserving is continued in The Chimera series, as casts of faces of loved ones. But here the positive is negated. Although imprinted into plaster the portrait is protected from the outside by wax. The features no longer visible are inverted and hidden. Kher has said of the process: “You take the first imprint of the skin and then you freeze it and then you cover it. So it is like a time capsule. You encase something to preserve it.”

For Links in a Chain Kher took the pages from the children’s book "Dick and Jane", a popular series of educational books that were used in the 1930s through to the 1970s to teach children to read. Kher makes collages, intervenes in the text so that become nonsensical.

The Intermediaries is interspersed with the antiquities that Freud himself collected. Kher describes the sculptures as “part secular and part deity. The clay sculptures are made in the South of India to be taken out once a year during festival time.” Perhaps mirroring many of Freud’s own ancient keepsakes some of them arrived broken and so the artist “began to see them as the broken idols … the ones that could no longer be worshipped or prayed to.”

With Equilibrium, a triangle hanging between floors, the artist draws us into impossible worlds: on one side of the coin there is mythmaking, and on the other, existential failure. Kher seems as preoccupied with the equilibrium of physical forces, as psychological. She achieves a “steady state” by a surreal conjunction of elements. Drawn from found and cast objects these works are strange tantalizing conjunctions of disparate forms and things – all held together in a delicate precarious balance.

Links in a chain [detail], 2016, Mixed media, In 6 parts; each 182 x 72.5 x 25 cm. Courtesy the artist and Hauser and Wirth

Bharti Kher was born in London in 1969. She studied at the Middlesex Polytechnic, London, 1987 - 1988 and received a BA Honours in Fine Art, Painting at the Foundation Course in Art & Design at Newcastle Polytechnic, Newcastle, 1988 - 1991.

Kher's work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and was included in scores of group exhibitions at museums and galleries worldwide. Recent solo presentations include: ‘In Her Own Language’, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, part of The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (2016); 'three decimal points. Of a minute of a second of a degree', Hauser & Wirth Zürich (2014), 'Misdemeanours', Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2014), Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London, England (2012). Further solo presentations in 2012 include ' 'Reveal the secrets that you seek', Savannah College for Art and Design, Savannah GA.
Group exhibitions include the Sydney Biennale (2016),

A comprehensive solo exhibition is currently on view at Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada.

Bharti Kher lives and works in New Delhi, India.


30 September 2016 - 20 November 2016
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