Gone are the tragi-comic humans that peopled artist and designer Viraj Khanna’s first solo last year. Now, at Tao Art Gallery in Mumbai, in a show curated by the young Sanjana Shah — who is taking over the family business of art — the 26-year-old finds that a fashionably dressed elephant surrounded by flowers and butterflies can get the viewer’s attention just as well.
In What My Mother Didn’t Teach Me… & Some Things She Did!, “the [zoomorphic] sculptures and paintings with their exaggerated features and multiple faces depict a behavioural adaptation due to the influences of society. There is a constant battle between our raw, natural, and conditioned forms”, explains the artist, who follows the works of Kaws, Jeff Koons and Javier Calleja. “Eventually, the artwork reflects my life and its influences.”
Tapping into vulnerability
His paintings have moved from canvas collages to paper, with Viraj building up the narrative using different elements from magazines, encyclopaedias, and other books. “I have been thinking a lot about my work after my first show and it has made me bolder in my approach. I’ve reflected on the idea of ‘vulnerability’, with stronger imagery depicted through the figurative elements of the artwork,” he says. “The new introduction of textile is also helping portray visually the way I look at things.”
The NFT bandwagon
For his 2021 show at the Loft Quest Mall Kolkata (hosted by Art Exposure), he had refrained from using textile because the gallery had advised him not to venture into it. “This was done to keep a separate identity [for me] as an artist and a designer,” says Viraj, who has a fashion label with his twin brother, Vishesh. But with his mother, fashion designer Anamika Khanna’s association with textile and embroidery, it has always spilled over into his life.
Why collages, though? Viraj believes that if masters like Picasso and Braque used collage to express themselves, then he can, too! “I think collage as a medium really helps to bridge the gap between an idea and its execution. It gives you something extra to work with and constantly innovate,” he concludes.
‘What My Mother Didn’t Teach Me… & Some Things She Did!’ opens at Tao Art Gallery on February 25 and will go on till April 3.