When I first interacted with Viraj’s work I was completely taken in by how evocative each piece was. The shapes, forms and colors stood out, starkly at first, but then coming together in an incredibly aesthetic form. However, aesthetics are far from the mind of this young, upcoming artist. Khanna in fact tries to break free from the aesthetic legacy handed down to him by his mother as he carves his own niche of exploration. Ironically, much of this exploration is also derived from the same legacy as he makes a sartorial commentary through his art on the ideas of beauty, fashion, appearances and society.
In his words, “humans are social animals, and the society we live in shapes the way we speak, behave, and interact with our surroundings. It also has a direct influence on our priorities, morals, ethics, values, etc. We aren’t born knowing what is right and what is wrong. We look at our surroundings, or behave according to the way we are told or taught. This adaptation to societal norms in order to fit in makes us ‘put on a face’. It makes us behave in a certain way, almost masking our true nature. My sculptures and paintings with their exaggerated features and multiple faces, depicts this behavioral adaptation due to the influences of society. There is a constant battle between our raw, natural form versus our conditioned form.”
The mediums and processes explored by him show the level of experiment that is characteristic of the myriad thematic layers he is dappling with. With the primary base being a paper collage, Khanna builds up the narrative using different elements from various magazines, encyclopedias, and other books to give it a shape. These pictorial elements could be anything ranging from different trees, to parts of peoples bodies, to different accessories/shapes. This mix and match leads to a final piece that is as much a journey for the artist as it is for the artwork! It is fluid and organic, removing all forms of restriction in the creation process. He states, “Eventually the artwork is a reflection of my life and its influences because I have to consciously make the decision of what works in the experiment and what does not. It has to agree with my sense of balance, color and taste”. The end result is a glorious deconstruction and reconstruction of identities and ideologies. The artist pays homage to legacy while also beginning to create his own individualistic one.
Text Sanjana Shah