Several years ago, Bharti Kher became fascinated by a four-by three-inch newspaper photograph of a collapsed elephant being loaded into a truck, and a sculpture was born – albeit slowly. The image was a rear view: to make the front, the artist needed a model. Kher’s studio is in Gurgaon, a thriving satellite city of New Delhi, and she knew where the latter’s colony of elephants is kept. She discovered that she could get one walked to her studio – it’d take a day – but the logistics were forbidding (and involved lots of bananas). Next, she went out alone and came across a beautiful female elephant en route to a wedding, but photographing it meant getting the animal into an untenably painful position. So Kher backed off, consulted, photographed surrogates (cows, for example), calculated how body weight would fall, improvised and – don’t tell – made the rest up. And, lengthily, after three attempts at realisation, voila: The skin speaks a language not its own 2006, a 1:1 fibreglass replica cum imagining.
Martin Herbert, ‘Bharti Kher’ in Art Review, no.39, March 2010.