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November 10, 2017

Mumbai’s Sassoon Dock Has Been Transformed Into A Gorgeous Art Canvas

Text by Saumya Sinha

We catch up with artists Yok and Sheryo who are painting the town with thought-provoking artworks

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An installation made out of recycled ocean debris, a fisherman’s net and chai presented together as symbols of memory and smell, larger-than-life murals that inspire peace and harmony are just a few of the gripping works that can be found at the St+Art Mumbai festival which begins tomorrow and goes on till December 30th. An initiative by St+Art India foundation, this ‘massive urban art intervention’, as it is called, has been planned across the city with participation from both Indian and international artists. Among the areas that are being turned into colourful and interactive canvases are Sassoon Dock, Churchgate station, Dharavi, Western railways and Jindal Mansion. The city walls are being brought to life by a mix of new and famous artists and for the next 10 days, we’ll be catching up with some of them to learn about the stories behind the big picture.

First up are Yok and Sheryo — The former, an Australian-born artist who grew up on Ren and Stimpy cartoons and the latter, a Brooklyn-based Singaporean visual artist who references pulp illustrations, skateboard graphics and an unabashed affinity for kitsch through her murals.

What piqued your interest in street art?
Yok: I discovered a penchant for public art in the late 90s during my European travels when I visited Barcelona and saw all the great artworks in the city. It inspired me to make my own contributions to the street.

Sheryo: I was pretty clueless about the street art scene in Singapore and was introduced to it by a bunch of skater boys who asked me if I would like to accompany them on a painting escapade. My first work was quite rudimentary so let’s not go there.

What do you wish to convey through your art?
Yok:  The flavour of the neighbourhoods that I paint them in.

Sheryo: To make people smile and enjoy the work we put out there.

What is the idea behind your work for St+Art Mumbai festival?
Yok and Sheryo: 
Titled Varuna Vessel, our work at the Sassoon Dock Art Project pays homage to fishermen from the Koli tribe and celebrates the bond between their life and the vessel (boat) that is their livelihood. The murals are inspired by our travels around South East Asia as well as Singapore, which is my hometown, and from our time spent in India. Since Singapore also houses a fishing village similar to the one at Sassoon Dock, we wanted to include a Singaporean element in the piece and draw parallels between the two fishing villages.

Tell us about the rendering process
Yok: We spent a good amount of time in the ideation stage, right from developing the sketches to gathering relevant information and procuring stories of fishermen along with sifting through the rich culture of Mumbai which we then infused into our visuals. We were chuffed to be able to use a real boat to form the base of the vessel for our installation.

Sheryo: We are partial to site-specific work so we always visit a city earlier to get a feel of the space and its people. We arm ourselves with some coffee and a few sketches that go on to become the artwork.

What has your experience been like?
Yok: Meeting the locals at Sassoon Dock has been really inspiring. It’s great that so many wonderful people have helped out during the duration of our stay.

Sheryo: We’ve met some incredible people in the last few months, right from the team at St+Art India Foundation to the bartender at the Dive bar near Sassoon Dock. Ravi, a resident of the dock, who helped us find a boat for our installation has a special place in our hearts.

Whose work inspires you?
Yok: Sheryo.

Sheryo: Yok, every day.

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