Canvassing the Masses

Aquil Virani Wants to Show You That You’re an Artist

Photo Adam Scotti

If you’ve ever felt intimidated by an art show, alienated by performance art or just like you didn’t understand, Aquil Virani wants to teach you a thing or two.

“Being an artist is a mental attitude,” he says. “If you feel like an artist, you are an artist. Period.”

Combining doodles and the oft-uttered phrase, “I can’t draw,” Virani would not have been able to start his latest work without the help of self-professed “non-artists.”

Presenting strangers with a ripped-out piece of sketchbook paper (“It’s less intimidating that way”) and then asking them to draw on it is something he’s gotten quite accustomed to. Collecting hundreds of doodles of stick men, smiley faces and characters of the ‘artist’s’ choosing, he then re-draws all of the pictures as one on a canvas.

“In order for the projects to work out, it’s best to take inspiration from other people,” he said. “I can paint something and have it up on a wall and have people validate it, it’s much more fulfilling when you can share the creation process as well.”

With his experiences along the way fueling his creative drive, Virani has taken that very idea as the theme of his second solo exhibit, COPYCAT. Everything displayed will, in some form, be a by-product of two different pieces.

Whether it is simply a new take on a renowned painting, or a project stemming from hundreds of artists, he is hoping that the pretention too often associated with contemporary art will dissipate—and people will realize that they, too, can be artists.

“people will realize that they, too, can be artists.”

“[During the process] you realize that only like, 2 per cent of people think they can draw,” he says. “It’s almost frustrating for me to hear that, because the reason they feel that way is because there’s a stigma associated with contemporary art, like it’s exclusive and you can’t understand it.”

On top of making art available to all, Virani also wants more people to realize that art doesn’t have to be a full-time dedication. Whether it’s a regular hobby or something done only in the margins of notebooks, it can be for anyone.

“Some will say something like, ‘Oh, I sing’—but that doesn’t mean you can’t draw,” he said. “That, for me, is a huge point: making art accessible, making people understand it even if they haven’t taken a course in art history or anything.”

While Virani says that his unconventional process is personally rewarding, it’s also a unique experience helping people realize that they can be a part of something they may not have thought was possible.

“That quote, […] ‘Happiness is only real when shared,’” he said. “That’s what I get out of this. It wouldn’t be the same if I couldn’t involve people like I do.”

COPYCAT / Feb. 14 / Leacock Building (855 Sherbrooke St. West) /