Aquil Virani is a visual artist studying at McGill. He’s not your typical, stark individualist, stand-alone artist. Virani is unique in that he prefers to collaborate with others and include everyday people in his work. In December 2011, his ideals of collaboration materialized when he completed a live painting for a TEDxMcGill event. This month, at the Fridge Door Gallery, Virani’s show COPYCAT attempts to blur the lines between plagiarism and original art. Tired of hearing his friends say “I can’t draw,” Virani has taken simple doodles from strangers and friends and compiled them into a visually compelling original artwork. I had the chance to speak with Virani about his new show, his inspiration, and that infamous TEDx event.
The McGill Daily (MD): How long have you been doing this kind of work and how would you describe your style?
The “We Are All Artist” piece was painted over the span of two full years. I started at the TNC Theatre and made my way through different circles to events like McGill’s Nuit Blanche and McGill TalentDrive, as well as places on campus. My collaborative explorations, however, started around five years ago in high school, where I began to explore ways in which I could include “everyday people” in the process.
Aquil Virani (AV): While there are stylistic similarities between pieces, I actually try not to stay within a particular style. Each piece has a unified, singular vision, but if you look in the lounge, you could easily think that each piece was made by a different artist. I keep the variation in my work because I want it to be engaging to people even if they’ve seen some of my work before. I’ll get bored if I make the same stylistic choices over and over again. I love to keep it fresh.
MD: What was your inspiration for your recent show COPYCAT?
AV: COPYCAT explored the idea of imitation in art and every day life. The core of the show included artworks that were based on the creative contribution of hundreds of members of the general public. By taking their drawings and using them as inspirational fuel, I feel that I created something new and original by copying the doodles of other people. That fine line between what is original and what is plagiarism is what inspired the theme
MD; Do you prefer the experience of collaborating with others rather than working alone?
AV: I prefer collaborating with others because it’s much more fulfilling. I’m a social guy, I love people, and if I can include people in the creation process of the painting and interact with them in an accessible way, that experience is much better than painting alone in my studio and putting up pretty pictures on the wall.
MD: What do you study at McGill and how does that influence your work ( or does it?
AV:My path has been an interesting journey, starting in Science in first year, exploring liberal arts in my second year, working mostly in Philosophy in third year, and focusing on Marketing in my final year. The most influential courses have been those in Management because they help me understand the business of art and what I need to do to be successful in the “real world”. It’s not easy making it as an artist, and the tools of entrepreneurship apply extremely well to artists
MD:You did a live painting for TEDx, could you describe that experience?
AV:The interactive painting project at TEDxMcGill was a great experience where I had nine hours to create a five x seven foot painting from start to finish. I used drawings from audience members as inspiration and also pulled quotes from the “TED Talks” as they were presented to provide a running “visual narration” to the event. This was nerve-racking, in particular, because I had such a limited timeline to not just paint, but to finish a large-scale painting.
COPYCAT opened on Wednesday, February 15th in the AUS Lounge in the basement of the Leacock Building. It will stay up in the student space for three weeks.