A lighter touch

Artist Vibhor Sogani is shining bright with his latest collection of light installations, says Susmita Saha

  • Published 31.01.16
What sets Vibhor Sogani apart is his innovative use of materials and edgy LED-based light installations

Is Vibhor Sogani an artist or lighting designer? Sogani constantly moves across this thin dividing line — creating enigmatically beautiful installations one minute and amazing lighting solutions the next.

One of his most famous artworks is a 40ft installation called Sprouts in a wasteland area near Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Says Sogani: “The theme’s about sprouting seeds. It conveys the idea we were sprouting as a nation after 60 years of independence.”

But it’s his lighting solutions which have earned him design world fame. He recently launched an installation of four edgy lighting pieces titled Infinity, Orion, Cube and Cascade. Cascade, a light from his latest line, sports strong horizontal and vertical lines inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater building in Pennsylvania, US. Sogani’s lighting fantasies have found pride of place in five-star hotels like Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La and Le Méridien. Big corporation clients include Cairn India, DLF and Unitech. In fact, Cairn’s Gurgaon head office displays a 60ft light installation by Sogani.

One key fact is, for all his installations, he uses environmentally-friendly LED lighting.

What makes him stand out from other installation artists is the wide assortment of design materials he uses. The materials range from stainless steel, brass, copper, iron and aluminium to stone, wood, concrete and glass. “My material palate keeps on increasing,” he grins.

Sogani has just opened a warehouse-sized studio spread over a mammoth 35,000sqft showcase area to house his new collection and also his other inventive art and light installations. Outside the studio, space has been devoted to his art installations and indoors has been earmarked for lighting.

Vibhor Sogani’s signature light Chroma Gold is made in stainless steel and can be customised according to the space available 

The designer has an R&D team of 25 people to help him create new pieces. Less complex work is outsourced according to project requirements.

Anyone who asks Sogani how he strayed into the National Institute of Design gets a well-rehearsed answer. “I’m a lazy guy. Preparing for the IIT and for MBBS is so complex, while NID requires no preparation at all,” he smiles.

At NID, he specialised in product design and graduated in 1992. Then he worked with Godrej Office Furniture for a year designing the brand’s executive-chair range. But Sogani struck out on his own fast. He started his own company, ODD (Office of Design & Development), in 1993 after shifting from Mumbai to Delhi.

He quickly picked up clients and 1993-to-2000 was a busy period for him. He was responsible for designing over 100 stores for JK Tyres and showrooms for Reebok, Adidas, Lufthansa and Jet Airways.

In 2000, he switched over to designing lifestyle accessories and during the next two years he created nearly 150 table-top steel-and-aluminium accessories (read napkin rings, coasters and more). This was also when he launched his signature brand, Vibhor Sogani.

Then, it was time for a complete change of pace. In 2004, he designed the Samsung Cup for a test and one-day cricket series in Pakistan. “That trophy was a very big hit. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then India’s prime minister, called it the Friendship Cup,” says Sogani, who went on to design other big trophies.

The installation called Cube is inspired by a melting ice cube and is made of 2,000 stainless steel spheres

Designing the trophies propelled his career in a new direction. Since the trophies were similar to art installations and radically different from the accessories he’d been designing earlier, he decided to focus on artworks.

Subsequently, he took part in a Delhi group show in 2006. He wasn’t really expecting to sell anything but even before the show opened, he got a call asking the price of one of his pieces. “I quoted something like Rs 3 lakh or Rs 4 lakh. And before I knew, it was sold,” he says. Today, his artworks sell for anything between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 20 lakh.

After the Delhi show, Sogani began using stainless steel more and simultaneously he started getting commissions to create artworks.

Sogani’s next stepping-stone was a lighting show in Mumbai where international lighting brands (Artemide, Flos and more) were showing in 2007. He was asked to create a light for the big-ticket show. The first light he created in November 2007 was called Chroma Gold, a cluster of globes with gold plating inside. “Out of all the lights, the only light that sold at the exhibition was mine,” he says.

After that, there was no looking back for Sogani and he began creating lights for both international and domestic markets. Now his label has a portfolio of 60 indigenous designs.

So what’s the designer’s latest light installation portfolio like? His new inventory is all about novel light concepts that push the design envelope. Take a look at Infinity, which evokes the image of gas balloons drifting away. There’s a feel of infinity created by rings of colour-changing LED lights.

Sogani says nature is more inspiring than man-made objects and that inspiration for his works can come from anywhere. He says almost mystically: “Sometimes, my inspiration is a figment of my imagination.”

Photographs by Rupinder Sharma