When German artist Jens Ullrich visited Mumbai in January this year, he was enamoured by the numerous business shops that lined the Fort area in the city. For Ullrich, seeing craftsmen toiling away on machines and engines in stalls was a sea change from the serene alleys of Germany where most of the businesses operate from upmarket buildings. At many of these shops, he came across painted signs depicting the objects for sale. Ullrich was particularly fascinated by the work of a painter, who only initialled some of his signs with ‘Sardarart’. Intrigued, he started asking shopkeepers about the painter of these signboards and finally met Davindar Singh Sokhi - the creator of ‘Sardarart’ at his Malad residence.
Impressed by his painting skills, Ullrich decided to team up with Sokhi for a unique exhibition, United Machines And A Collar System, which opened on May 30 at the Max Mueller Bhavan’s art gallery. While Sokhi has painted 30 sewing machines, pumps, metal press and old money counting machines by using technical oil colours on thin aluminium plates, Ullrich, inspired by India, has used handwoven khadi as canvas and mixed cottage cheese with chemicals to paint cutout patterns of shirts.
While this is the premier exhibition of applied artist Sokhi’s paintings, Ullrich is also displaying his works for the first time in the country. The latter says, “Sokhi’s signboards were different from the ones that I had seen abroad. Also, since the time I had come to Mumbai, I was so intrigued by the business shops that I didn’t get a chance to interact with local Indian artists. When I saw Sokhi’s works, I wanted to collaborate with him and capture daily Indian life on canvas.”
He adds that since he leads a busy life back home, it was a conscious attempt to do something drastically different in India. “In my earlier works, I have used football as a leitmotif but here I wanted to explore the apparel as India has a rich treasure trove of different fabrics.”
He admits that collaborating with Sokhi has been a learning experience in diverse ways. “I developed the concept of the exhibition and took it to him. At first, he was surprised, as he has never displayed his works in an art gallery. But he was upbeat about the idea.
I communicated with him through a translator. I’m fascinated by his work and would like to paint signboards in Germany in the near future,” he concludes. when Till June 18, Monday to Saturday, 11 am-6 pm
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