Fine Arts Marathon

Montreal Artist Embarks on a Restless Challenge: Creating 100 Artworks a Week

Montreal artist Aquil Virani participated in a live painting show for L’Oreal Canada where he used hair coloration as paint. COURTESY AQUIL VIRANI
“Nature” was created as part of Canada’s Self Portrait in July 2015. COURTESY AQUIL VIRANI

Montreal-based artist Aquil Virani challenged himself to create 100 pieces of art in seven sleep-deprived days.

Some may call it ambitious, but for the multi-talented artist, it’s simply a way to keep his passion burning and creativity flowing— and to celebrate his 25th birthday.

Snuggled in the Plateau, Virani sat in his studio apartment, strewn with canvases. Little fabric flags hung overhead. In the background, classical music filled the gaps between questions and answers.

Outside, a cold January night subsisted. Virani’s grounded demeanor, and warm, welcoming little space could make anywhere feel at home.

The project is not the first time he’s taken on a challenge with a time constraint attached. Virani embarked on an endeavour of the same flavour last year, when he made 24 pieces in 24 hours, celebrating his 24th birthday.

“After doing a similar challenge over 24 hours, I know how difficult it will be to produce quality work once the fatigue of even eight hours of concentration kicks in,” he said.

He achieved his goal with flying colours, and hopes to do so again.

The seedling of the project’s conception was based around how difficult it can be to set aside time for our passions. For Virani, this was, of course, his art.

“Even to carve out 24 hours … I have to tell people—clients—that I’m doin’ this!” he said. “But the world needs art!”

While Virani’s passion is art, he also studied marketing and philosophy—specifically ethics—at McGill. He also works as a professional graphic designer and speaker for events.

Media will be varied, as are his talents—possibilities for this project are infinite, ranging from the expected paint and illustration-based works, to collages, graphics and beyond.

“I’ll show you,” he said, as he wandered off into his bedroom. He emerged smiling, holding a Styrofoam head. “I’m probably going to paint these,” he motioned at the few blank faces in his room.

Virani began the process of creating his 100 works last Thursday. For the first four days, he worked from his studio. For the following days, Virani is working live at Galerie Mile-End, where the fully finished show will premiere on Friday.

As for whether he’ll be posting up in the gallery for an extended amount of time, Virani said he’s unsure. “I’m thinking of bringing a pillow … I doubt I’ll sleep in the last two days.”

Before the beginning of the challenge, Virani had come up with some numbers indicating how many pieces he would need to create each day—a daunting minimum of 14—he said he tried not to over-plan.

“I think people respond to the vulnerability and honesty as to whether I will get it done or not,” he added.

Don’t think quality always dominates quantity, or that the two are mutually exclusive. When asked, Virani recounted a story of a pottery class. “One half of the class is told they’ll be graded on their best work; the best ceramic they can come up with. The other part of the class is graded based on how many they can make,” he said.
“What ends up happening is the people who make as many as possible end up making the better work.”

Aside from the challenging elements of his project, Virani plans to incorporate different themes and social messages into his art.

“A lot of the work I have done is about empowering people … to assert themselves as the viewers and as artists,” he says. He adds that if you can write the ABC’s, you can draw. “It’s just lines and shapes.”

The candour of Virani’s project culminates in a work that is at once enthralling and welcoming. There’s something warm and inclusive about an artist challenging himself to accomplish such a daunting task so publicly.

You can catch a glimpse of his weeklong adventure as Virani creates his works until Jan. 14, live at Galerie Mile-End, 5345 Parc Ave. The completed show will be up in the gallery from Jan. 15 to 17.