Always an artist with a knack for poignant, poetic titles, Bharti Kher’s latest work, unveiled at the opening of Frieze Sculpture 2018 on 4 July at Regent’s Park, London, is curiously called The Intermediary Family. To anyone who has visited her studio, the work immediately brings to mind a cabinet in which she keeps a collection of figurines resembling members of the Hindu pantheon of deities. Except the scale is larger than life-sized—4.8m, her biggest so far. While the work is new, dating to 2018, it exists harmoniously in continuity within her larger, daring narrative of hybrid beings constituted by what she calls “half-things". She describes this new cross-breed family as “spectral avatars of the goddess and shaman healers for a city: Frieze Sculpture Park" in the description accompanying her picture of it on Instagram. “Till October they stand here sending and receiving your wishes," she adds at the end, enticing viewers to visit.

The identities of the three figures that constitute the family grouping are not specified by Kher, who says the references are from here and there. “They are made up of elements of people, gods, animals, and are not specific to religious characters. They’re clearly hybrid in-betweens, kind of like Frankensteins," she explains on the phone. In fact, these sculptures seem to have been created with what seems like conscious ambiguity.

‘No.814’ by Rana Begum at the Frieze Sculpture Park, London. Photo courtesy: Stephen White/Frieze Sculpture Park
‘No.814’ by Rana Begum at the Frieze Sculpture Park, London. Photo courtesy: Stephen White/Frieze Sculpture Park

Kher has professed that the title The Intermediary Family relates to her own family, describing it as a sculpture of cross-breeds, half-breeds and half-bloods—a nod to her own complex family ancestry and her own history of living in London, a city she grew up in; and Delhi, to which she returned years ago, and where she met her husband, Subodh Gupta, and has raised her family. “Perhaps a work to which many of us can relate," says the commentator on the audio guide, part of a navigational app built by ARTimbarc, with which it is also possible to digitally tour the Sculpture Park.

Kher is among 25 artists from five continents, including John Baldessari, Tracey Emin and Kiki Smith, who were selected by Clare Lilley, programme director of the famous Yorkshire Sculpture Park, to install work at Frieze Sculpture’s 2018 edition, on till 7 October.

Rana Begum is the only other artist of South Asian origin to show this year. Her work, titled No.814, derives its core from religious experience; referencing as it does one of her strongest childhood memories of reading the Quran at a mosque in Bangladesh, when, one day, in a tiny room dappled with morning light, the repetition of the light and the recitation of the verses came together in an overwhelming moment. Rana Begum’s piece, a composition of sections of coloured glass, is situated on an East-West axis so that as the light travels across its surfaces from dawn to dusk, the colours bleed into each other, casting prismatic shadows on the ground, even embedding the viewer into its spatial aura.

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