After previously creating 24 artworks in 24 hours, Aquil Virani has now completed a 100-work marathon of art production.
The Concordian: What are you doing and why are you doing it?
Aquil Virani: I have decided to challenge myself to create 100 artworks in one week and unveil all of them on my 25th birthday at Galerie Mile-End.
The [first] reason I did that … [is that] I’d like to push myself, I’d like to be on the edge of success or failure because I think that if I’m honest about what I’m doing then people will respond to my authenticity … and my vulnerability. If I’m saying I’m going to do this really hard thing, watch me if I succeed or fail, I think people are into that.
The other thing is that I wanted to show how simple art-making can be … I didn’t go to fine arts school, I obviously have practiced a lot, but art making can be anything … I want to demystify art or show how accessible it can be.
The third thing [I want to do] is to inspire others to not only make art but to find time to do their own creative things.
What I’m reminding people of is, number one, it’s good to set aside a time to do what you love to do … and then the second thing is to tell people about it so that you’re accountable. Once I tell people that I’m going to make 100 artworks in a week I’m going to try now.
C: What types of artwork will you be producing?
AV: There’s spraypaint, stencils … three or four different styles of acrylic painting. I’m using pen on paper, which is one of my more favourite mediums because it’s so everyday. Like everyone has a pen and a piece of paper—in [relation to] my quest to convince people or to invite people to make art on their own … you don’t even have to go to the art store to buy paint, you have a pen and paper all the time, so, no excuses, people!
I’m doing coloured pencil [on] paper, like crayon type stuff. And then, [for] some of the last few pieces, I bought some styrofoam heads … and I’m going to paint some styrofoam.
C: 100 artworks in one week is highly concentrated work, tell us about the process itself.
AV: It’s both liberating and frustrating to have a time limit. It’s frustrating because you’re like ‘I want to spend more time on this,’ but it’s liberating because, not only does it alleviate some of the pressure, but you can say, ‘well I did this in an hour, so what do you expect?’
It’s also liberating in the sense that after you get six or seven pieces done you get into a momentum that carries you through those moments of doubt … all those things that usually delay you when you’re normally being creative or creating artwork.
I fully accept the process. In other words, I am pretty good at not judging my work so often. You know that voice inside your head? I’m pretty good at telling that person to go away for a while. So, that makes it much easier to prioritize getting it done—that done is better than perfect.
It definitely has been hard, but worth it. [It’s a] very satisfying feeling, to push through.
C: Do you believe that creativity can be exhausted? Do you have any tactics for re-inspiring yourself?
AV: Creativity is not a noun, it’s not a something that’s a bucket in your brain and it depletes. Creativity is what happens when you’re forced to solve a problem. There’s a lot of this myth [that] artists have to wait to be inspired—that is true, some people work like that—but this project forces me to just go for it and to push through.
At a certain point, I wouldn’t say the creativity runs out but, let’s say the inspiration runs out, usually that’s linked to me not having enough energy—decision-making power. [Let’s say I’ve] ran out of ideas… then it becomes an exercise in trusting that it will work out and being okay if it doesn’t … This forces me to be like let’s try it and if it doesn’t work out at least I can say hey I tried it and I failed and that’s how art-making works.’
C: In your past as an artist, you’ve had multiple instances of working in large production cycles. Do you prefer that process over working on small projects for longer periods of time? If so, why?
AV: Yes I prefer … the large production cycle. In my words, it would be like I prefer to do significant projects as opposed to disparate dabblings. The reason for that is, number one, I take an invitation seriously. So, if I tell my friends, ‘Hey, come see my art show,’ I take that gesture of invitation seriously enough that I want to make sure they have enough to see, that they won’t come and there’s like eight things … I want there to be something at the show that you’ll enjoy, and one very easy to go about that is to create a diverse body of artwork, to make sure there’s something for everyone.
After a year … in terms of my career, I’m [also] not going to remember a quick thing I did unless it’s built into a larger goal, so that’s why I do big stuff.
C: Because you’re producing large quantities in a small amount of time, do you think each piece will have a message in and of itself or will it be more driven by aesthetics?
AV: It depends on the piece. Some pieces definitely have a meaning that I’ve intended to portray, or a story behind it, and then others are just like I wanted to try to draw a portrait so I drew a portrait. Now with that being said, it’s definitely much easier when you’re … pressed for time, to gravitate towards something that’s aesthetic because that’s a bit easier.
I try very hard not to put a meaning on something after it’s done, because I think art loses a lot of people when they can sense bullshit … pretentiousness [is] loading things with meaning that probably wasn’t intended in the creation process, and leaving people in the dark … In all my other projects I put an artist statement on every piece, not just the body of work as a whole, so that I can say ‘this is what meant,’ or ‘I didn’t mean anything, I was just playing with colour,’ so I’m really honest.
C: You’ve talked about “battling the pretentiousness of art” just now and in the past, so how do you judge art? How do you ensure your art isn’t pretentious?
AV: I definitely think that the goal of art can be to tell a story and communicate an idea or an emotion. I think the way you go about it is in a very authentic, honest and open way. So, to make sure that someone could walk up off the street that doesn’t know you or your work or anything about art history, come in, see the artwork, like something about it, read the artist statement that explains and then really get it and really feel included—almost like they’re in on the story or they’re in on the joke.
I think you do what you want and art can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re not being an asshole about it. So, in a sense, I’m not inclusive of art that I think is pretentious.
C: Any plans for after the show?
AV: For the works that don’t sell at this show … I’m going to do an art give-away type campaign, like go up to random people on the streets, give them art. I’m going to hang some up on trees. I’ll have a good amount of little artworks and projects and sketches that I can put in envelopes and mail to people. [I] just [want to] make sure to put the art to good use after it’s taken down from the gallery.
C: What are some responses you’ve received? What are the takeaways and responses you wish to attain?
AV: I think people have been receptive so far, obviously the bigger I can make it I think the better my point gets across. If I made 100 artworks in a week, and you see this wide range of work with all these little drawings and stuff, obviously it must’ve been do-able to do that.
I am proud of my own skills that I’ve developed in making artwork and I think that people will be surprised when they make artwork and they set aside time to do it. [If] they get that momentum, generally they will experience the same feeling. At the core I’m a happy person and a very satisfied person and the way I often do that is through being creative … I want other people to be happy too, so I tell them to be creative. That is what’s at the core.
Aquil Virani’s official vernissage was on Jan. 15 at Galerie Mile End (5345 Park Avenue) and the exhibit will run until Jan. 22.