To read Aquil Virani’s short biography, click here.
I want to use my art to contribute to social change movements, promoting a more nuanced and responsible representation of marginalized groups and communities on our own terms. My goal is to create work aligned with my political values. I craft images using acrylic and spray paint – and more recently, short films, graphic design and installations – with my role as an “artist in society” in mind. Three pillars guide my evolving artistic practice: accessibility & participation, social relevance, and representation.
To me, accessibility matters.
I want my work to speak to (my) various communities, across demographics and lived experiences. The public should be empowered to reclaim visual art from the perceived elitism of cultural institutions that sometimes fail in reaching everyday citizens. That’s why my creation process often engages with communities directly. Art is for everyone. My portraiture is a positive, proactive gesture to battle discrimination by representing marginalized communities in “prestigious” ways, often reserved historically for old, rich, white men. I want to infuse the idealized worlds of fine art and portraiture with the specificity of real, everyday people. It’s part of a strategy of radical inclusion.
To me, social relevance matters.
I believe strongly in the moral responsibility of artists to make work that challenges the public and pushes the envelope on pressing issues within our society. Everything is political when your community’s survival and well-being is at stake. I tend to think in interconnected systems. Systemic racism. Sexism. Colonialism. Capitalism. Islamophobia. The “why” of artwork can never be forgotten. Every poster counts. Every article counts. Every painting counts.
To me, representation matters.
“Nothing about us without us.” Who I choose to depict, who I involve in the creation process, what I make visible, and how I go about this process – these decisions and nuances build the integrity of my artistic practice. I view my work as part of a larger system of social change-making. I see education and communication as drivers of empathy and understanding, and I create my art as ammunition in the battle for visibility, truth, and power. I really believe that.