For the first time in its history, the Fridge Door Gallery at McGill is hosting a solo show featuring the work of visual artist Aquil Virani, U2 Philosophy and Humanistic Studies and a Daily staffer. Currently located in the Arts Lounge in the basement of Leacock, the Fridge Door Gallery is a student-run venue that offers McGill artists the opportunity to submit and showcase their art in a public space. Helping to fill the gap left by McGill’s lack of a Fine Arts department, Fridge Door promotes student art through equal opportunity submissions and exhibitions.
In an email, members of the gallery’s executive committee explained that, “The Fridge Door Gallery values the dedication and dependability of the loyal artists we have worked with over the years. When we were approached by Aquil Virani, who has been an active artist in the Fridge Door community for the last couple of years, we felt this would be a great way to show our gratitude to such a talented friend of the gallery. It was a brave proposition, but we thought that it would be a great idea.”
They further explained that “Mindfcuk” was an addition to their biannual shows and that the solo show did not detract from the exposure of other artists. “If anything, hosting an event like this demonstrates what sort of venues are available on campus for anyone interested in the visual arts… We are open to any artist that takes the initiative to start something innovative and Aquil happened to be the first,” they revealed. Upon asking Virani about the exhibit’s potential exclusivity, he replied that, “the Fridge Door Gallery is about supporting student artists by an unwritten mandate…I am dedicated, and I have no problem being confident about my commitment to visual art.”
Unlike previous Fridge Door shows, featuring a single artist enables a more cohesive theme and connection between the works. The Fridge Door coordinators explained, “It was really great to be able to host a show where the pieces worked so well together. This is one of the constant struggles we have with the FDG exhibitions – finding a common thread within the pieces in order to put together a cohesive show.”
As the title of the show suggests, “Mindfcuk’s” intention is were to visually trick the viewer, to screw with their head. On first walking into the gallery, two scrolls entitled Eyegasm block the way into the rest of the room. Virani’s brightly-coloured scrolls create a whimsical beginning, forcing the viewer into an interpretative mindset before they have even taken off their coat. In Virani’s words it “punches your mind right in the face.” He describes how at first, Eyegasm looks like a bunch of lines. Maybe an eye. At a step back, you realize that one design is an eye, or a mouth. The two are positioned in a triangular fashion that is repeatable both horizontally and diagonally. If you just tile it, it’s almost like wallpaper in a sense. It worked out really well and I noticed that there are certain features of the eye and the mouth that make them work well together.” His work plays with the assumptions one’s brain makes upon initial viewing and beckons for further contemplation. Eyes flow into mouths, two faces appear on one head, and shoulders become another figure’s neckline.
Eager to promote viewer engagement, Virani offered artist statements next to each piece, detailing his intentions and the tricks and treats each has to offer. The statements made the art accessible but seemed to give away his secrets. Shouldn’t a magician keep his magic to himself? Not according to Virani. He explained how he would rather “engage with the viewer and be extremely transparent and informative so that they can get the art work and really understand the depth and the story behind it, instead of having the viewer confused, unimpressed, disengaged, disinterested because they don’t know enough about it.”
People often find themselves confused in modern art galleries as to what the works mean. Virani’s current show “Mindfcuk” offers a fresh sense of confusion by making the art extremely accessible, but tricks the mind through his forms and flowing figures. Think, “What does this mean” versus. “Is that what I think it is?”
Despite the fact that it is Fridge Door’s first solo show, “Mindfcuk” paves the way for Fridge Door to highlight other determined artists outside of their usual framework.