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culture: Bindi spots bring artist's work to life.

Byline: David Whetstone

NOT everything we see in Baltic could be described as beautiful but rarely is beauty the purpose of the exercise.

Having said that, Bharti Kher's ground floor installation has an intrinsic beauty. On one wall are her huge, swirling bindi pictures.

They were made in India with something that is quintessentially Indian.

The bindi is the spot worn by Hindu women to represent the third eye.

"The idea is that they have this object that they can instill faith in," said Bharti at last night's preview.

Bharti may not share that faith, but she has worked with the bindi spot - both for its myriad meanings and as an attractive material - for some years now.

She explained how she would draw the negative spaces on the big panels and her assistants would painstakingly carry out her instructions, sticking on the tiny bindi spots.

They are hugely attractive and full of life, particularly the one comprising thousands of bindi in the shape of sperm. It looks like something you see through a microscope.

Bharti said the sperm bindi, which also represented the snake, another symbol of fertility, was rather old fashioned now and rarely worn.

Complementing the panels are two trees, one apparently growing out of the floor and the other fallen. Each is covered in the resin heads of strange creatures, hanging like sinister fruit.

These are part of her Solarum Series which delve into Indian history but are also a comment on modern scientific advances, such as cloning.

Bharti said: "They were inspired by the Persian waq tree which was supposed to be a warning to Alexander the Great not to advance across India."

A more modern interpretation, she explained, had the larger, fallen tree as a failed specimen. The upright tree, though smaller, is an exact representation, though perhaps more successful.

Bharti Kher, who exhibited recently in New York, grew up in London but studied fine art at Newcastle Polytechnic from 1988-91. She returned to London and, after a holiday in India, stunned her parents, who had emigrated from the Punjab in the 1960s, by announcing she was going to live in the country of their birth.

She is now settled in New Delhi with her artist husband Subodh Gupta who, coincidentally, had an exhibition in this very space at Baltic which closed exactly a year ago.

It was called Silk Route and one exhibit featured lots of steel kitchen utensils.

The couple now juggle their lives as international contemporary artists with bringing up two children.

Bharti said she had fond memories of drinking in the Free Trade Inn in Byker.

"We would look across at the Baltic, which was derelict then, and say, 'That should be some kind of art centre'," she recalled.

Her exhibition, Virus, is at Baltic until August 17. Members of The Journal Culture Club were among those who attended last night's special preview to hear the artist talk about her work.

CAPTION(S):

COLOURFUL Bharti Kher with her picture inspired by the Persian waq tree, part of her Solarum Series of art work on display at Baltic. Picture: Tim McGuinness
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2008
Words:519
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