Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai is proud to announce a two-person exhibition of paintings by Davindar Singh Sokhi & Jens Ullrich titled, UNITED MACHINES and a COLLAR SYSTEM. After years of practising as an applied artist, for Davindar Singh Sokhi, this is the first exhibition of his paintings of machines in a fine arts context. Jens Ullrich, artist-in-residence from Germany, will exhibit his new work for the first time in India. This is a collaborative effort of two artists from extremely varied backgrounds, it is therefore essential to comprehend the nature and beginnings of their exchange to fully understand the scope of this exhibition.
1: The search for the machine painter
Soon after his arrival in Mumbai in January 2013, Jens Ullrich paid regular visits to the business district in Fort, where machines and engines of all types are traded. At many shops over there, he came across painted signs depicting the objects for sale; these were done in a simple, clear and unostentatious manner. Jens was particularly fascinated by the work of a painter, who only initialled some of his signs with “Sardarart”, but, whether signed or not: all signage had his distinctive handwriting.
Impressed by the paintings of machines reduced to its essentials, Jens Ullrich spoke to the tradesmen to find out the identity of the painter behind “Sardarart”. The few clues from the machine traders finally led him to Malad. Over there, with the support of Mr. Sudalai Muthu Gopal during a visit to a Gurudwara in Malad on a Sunday morning in May, Jens Ullrich was finally able to track Davindar Singh Sokhi – the creator of “Sardarart”.
2: Painting Apparel
Jens Ullrich has adapted a new style of dressing in India! For his personal use, he has already begun to redraw cut-out patterns of clothing brought along, to find the fabrics and to get his shirts and trousers stitched. During his stay in India, he has the opportunity to think about wearing his purchased, and not self-made, clothes. It is an attempt to allow everyday behaviour to be a styling activity. Here one has to keep in mind the history of India – being in search for political identity before and after independence from the British India did not always follow rules attached to mass manufacture and distribution of woven materials. Uniformity or fashion are not criticised over here; rather, experiments with the local peculiarities in clothing are visible. Jens Ullrich’s new Indian shirts and trousers have come into being from the process of copying cut-out patterns on materials. Although now sometimes he decides not to cut the traced patterns, but to fill the areas with white and allow them to hang as pictures.
3: Machines, Materials, Signs
In the exhibition at Galerie Max Mueller, “painted machines meet painted cut-out patterns”. Jens Ullrich has invited Davindar Singh to jointly appear in the sphere of art. A collaboration of first of its kind, against the backdrop of differences in professional, social and other spheres of life between the two artists, the exhibition is definitely a meeting of incompatible value scales despite the love for certain materials clearly favoured by both of them, i.e. technical oil colours on thin aluminium plates by Davindar Singh and milk casein paint on hand-woven cotton fabric by Jens Ullrich. Davindar Singh’s painting, to a certain extent, is not far removed from professional paintings of machines itself. Colours and materials are identical. The machine paintings however represent the skilful reduction of a complex apparatus to its essential function and its potential recognisability to a large extent: The reduced symbols for a convincingly modern and pragmatic tool could be still more sharply drawn as any photographic illustration of a machine. For the sake of ingenuousness, accurate knowledge of the objects must form the basis of Davinder´s creative process.
Bright cutting patterns of the material pictures by Jens Ullrich are on display in the exhibition, in tandem with Davindar Singh’s machine cut-outs of aluminium; both the artists have opted for a design to exhibit their works at a certain distance from the walls in order to create subtle real shadows. Shadows – which emphasize the metaphysical nature of the works.
“Observing the beauty of a painted sign in the bustle of alleys, in the midst of traffic noise and heat may be amusing. The infamous look in the perception of a stranger, who sees painting in this situation, where others come to buy machines”. (Jens Ullrich)
About the Artists
Jens Ullrich, born in 1968 in Tukuju/Tanzania, lives in Dortmund and Berlin. In addition to his artistic activity, he has been running the exhibition showroom in “Center-Berlin” since 2008. His works have been displayed in numerous exhibitions, including in the art association/Hannover, the Tate Modern/London, the Museum Sztuki/Lotz, the Glucksman Gallery/Cork and the Museum Abteiberg//Mönchengladbach. Jens Ullrich is an artist fellow of the 6-month long art residency programme of the Art Foundation of Nordrhein-Westfalen in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai.
Artist Davindar Singh Sokhi was born on 18th August 1967 in Gurdaspur district / Punjab. After his schooling, he came to Mumbai at the age of 16 and began learning to paint from his father.