Aquil Virani’s artist statement

I’m interested in contributing to social change movements 
in the arena of visual culture, promoting a more nuanced and responsible representation of marginalized groups and communities. I craft images using acrylic and spray paint – and more recently, short films and installations – with my role as an artist in mind. Three pillars guide my evolving artistic artistic practice: accessibility, social relevance, and representation.

To me, accessibility matters.
I want my work to speak to various education levels, demographics, and communities. 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 and subversion.

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 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. It’s how I get through the day.