The medium of her experimentation is a pronounced interest in sensing and perceiving the expressiveness and cultural attributes intrinsic to the materials she uses. With her installations and objects, the artist discovers moments of contradiction, of alienation, and of repetition. The play with opposites, such as physicality and emptiness, order and chaos, organic forms and geometric structures, as well as the opposite of content and form, are confronted with human and transcultural contents.
The installations and the way they are placed in space reminds one of ritual activities. To hang or lay, to place or suspend are integral parts of the works, the artist’s personal reading of her art, making the dense obscurity of sophisticated cultures accessible.
Kakar’s work stands for physicality and is itself physical. Her works are cheerful, provocative, sexy and scary at the same time
Dr. Britta Schmitz, Chief Curator, National Gallery in Hamburger Bahnhof
(Museum für Gegenwart), Berlin
"One of the most important pre-requisites for the achievement of her artistic goals is Katharina Kakar’s extraordinary sensibility towards the characteristic traits and complex meanings of materials that are without tradition in the context of art: dried fish, chilies, spices, ash, plastic garbage, to name a few."
"The thing that the depth of woman is supposed to be the hiding place and hiding mechanism for is what representation obliterates even from the visible. For 'she', also, is visible".
Luce Irigaray, Marine Lover, 1991
It is the sexual charge of the works of Katharina Kakar that leaves an impression, one that is unpredictable in how and where it will go but rampant, with an unashamed sensual sculptural language embedded in the west and east, in image and in speech, that explores the extremes of where she places herself in the work.
There is always bit of littering, not only as in 'littered with', but as a form of loitering as well. Kakar’s objects are wagging about sexuality, gender, identity and religion. In her oeuvre tongues are, sometimes even literally, beginning to wag about the female - linking through sculptures and assemblages the interrogation of the feminine in Irigarayan philosophy with a pre-Socratic investigation. Just like Luce Irigaray - for instance when she writes so lyrically about the complex relationship that exists between the feminine and the fluid, Kakar utilizes materials, forms and constellations that defy distinctions among art, theory and philosophy. The same conversation sanctioned the aspiration of other strong female artists: one thinks of Eva Hesse, Ana Mendieta, Louise Bourgeois, Lynda Benglis, Hannah Wilke, or Yayoi Kusama.
Chris Dercon, Director
Tate Modern, London
Katharina Kakar is telling multiple stories about women, some personal, some textual, some experiential and some mythical. They all emerge from her own private sense of India, an India she has lived and experienced for the last twenty years as a writer, as an academic, centering around the ideas of comparative religion, and as an educator through her Tara Trust.
Very much a ‘contemporary being,’ a self-taught artist who has lived in many continents, Katharina has been making work which has a distinct language, judiciously balanced with text and image. Detailed captions which accompany most of her art works are immersed with her readings and understanding of traditional Indian texts, modern and contemporary readings, and some re-readings encompassing India’s plural culture. In the ‘making’ of the artwork, contemporary, cosmopolitan internationalism is juxtaposed with the local, indigenous craft and materials. From these twin parents is born Crossing the Lakshmana Rekha.
"A strong vein of feminism underlines Kakar’s visual language as she interrogates various aspects of femininity, its various roles, meanings and forms, through the eyes of the woman. The female gaze becomes dominant, eliminating the patriarchal conventions of the prevailing male gaze."
Dr. Alka Pande
Curator, Winter 2015
Kakar’s works also act as cultural signifiers. In India, her status as someone who has adopted the country as her home but who is still perhaps viewed as an outsider, albeit an informed and educated one. She often uses her own body – what one would identify as foreign to create what she refers to as visual bodies that would be signified as deeply Indian. Katharina uses her own physical body to investigate surface cultural beliefs to uncover what is buried beneath.
Issues of transgression, of moving beyond, of crossing lines, of boundaries, of pushing the creative envelope, are prevalent not only in her artworks but also make themselves felt through her life.
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