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Looking towards Viraj Khanna’S Ineffable art

This is his debut solo presentation at India Art Fair in New Delhi

Saionee Chakraborty Published 06.02.23, 02:11 PM
Viraj Khanna

Viraj Khanna The Telegraph

Layers and observations are the narrative of Viraj Khanna’s ‘Ineffable’ — a play of the abstract and emotions — that the young artist will be presenting at India Art Fair in association with Tao Art Gallery (part of the focused booth No. B18 and solo representation) from February 9 to 12, in New Delhi, curated and put together by Sanjana Shah (Tao Art Gallery). We caught up with Viraj and got him to decode the story of his expressions.

What’s the story of ‘Ineffable’?


I create these non-realistic figures more so that people can relate to them in their own way. When I am making these works, I am actually thinking about the people in my life that I am surrounded by and then based on that, I choose different materials. I want people to think about other people in their lives. We are influenced by so many different things and because of that, there are so many masks and layers to us. All the works are layered with different materials and elements.

If the embroidery is a little shiny, I am trying to show a person with an extravagant nature. If I am using a simple thread, it’s a more subtle energy. The elements I am using are the reflection of the energy of that person.

We’ll be showcasing about 10-11 pieces. There are going to be more specialised and skilled embroidery techniques. Some pieces are seven-eight kilos. There is so much detailing. Some of the works are embroidered and then embroidered on top of that again and there is also a lot of patchwork. It’s almost like a collage of embroidery.

These demanded artistic expression alone, right?

It’s subjective and personal and the expressions are also so personal because everyone’s life experiences are also so different. We perceive things based on whatever we have grown up seeing.

You have changed the whole grammar of aari and zardozi... Since I have been in the family business and I look after the embroidery section, I see all these karigars complaining about how they are finding it more and more difficult to find karigars who are skilled. Since Covid or even previously, karigars don’t want their kids to become karigars any more. And, also because of the machine and computerised embroidery and the commercialised aspect of this, the number of skilled karigars has reduced slowly. It’s interesting to work (with these materials). I am using all the difficult techniques and it’s almost like saving it, in a way. It’s a new practice from something that has been done for so long. They’ve only made, let’s say, floral motifs. Now, there is a contemporary spin to it. I am using the same techniques to create these wall art figures.

What is their reaction like when you ask them to work on these pieces? Is it one of surprise?

Initially, they would wonder what was going on. One karigar once took it to the village and he came back and told me the entire village was scared! (Laughs) This was an alligator piece... but now they are getting used to it and they are liking it. They are enjoying it because it is something so different. There’s also so much experimentation that even they are creatively challenged.

Your art has always been personal. Do you derive the most inspiration from it, which is why you keep going back to it?

It’s a reflection of the society I am seeing. It’s my understanding of that.

Will this be the language of your art going forward?

When I started, I never thought I’d do textiles. I was staying away because of the connection to the family business, but slowly, whatever you feel closest to, is what comes out. So, it really depends on what I am feeling and my experiences. I am more skilful with the textile medium since I have been surrounded by it, but whatever medium I can use to better express what I want to say, it’ll come down to that.

This is also the first time you are showing at India Art Fair...

It’s overwhelming. This is literally my second time at the Art Fair and I am doing a solo show. So, I am excited and nervous!

I only saw it once last year, the first time in my life! (Laughs)

Whose work are you excited to experience?

I am excited to see Rooshad Shroff and T Venkanna’s collaboration. I love seeing what Suhasini Kejriwal is doing.

Have you planned your 2023?

In two years there’s already been four solo shows and events. So, this is the last decided event up to now. The galleries want to do more shows, but I want to wait on it because it’s been a roller coaster. I want a break so that I can reflect more. Your work also keeps evolving. I’ll approach the gallery when I am ready so that I can put something meaningful out there.

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