FSC is shining a spotlight on Viraj Mithani. Hailing from Bombay, India, Viraj spent the last four years earning his BFA at The School of the Art Institute Chicago. His solo exhibition, Paper to Plastic, opens Feb 3rd at Spudnikpress, 6pm. He returns to India in March with some fear and reluctance about starting a new, but he's optimistic about bringing a new found respect and energy for art to his homeland.
FSC Interview with Viraj Mithani
Who are you and what do you do?
I am a contemporary artist. I do painting, drawing and printmaking. I also have a background in visual communication (graphic design)
Why did you choose art? What influenced you to have the courage to create?
Till I can rewind back my memory, I have always remembered being most excited about art and creativity. Since childhood, I have always excelled in art. At a very young age, I started formally training. For me creation started with mimicking famous artists, artworks, cartoons and pop culture. My formative years I was taught a lot about mastering skills. Whether in drawing, sketching or paintings in different mediums (oil, watercolor and acrylics)- rendering, perspective, traditional knowledge was very important. At college, I learned the value of the conceptual part of it and the meaning of why and what makes it important for you as an artist to create something?
What is your meaning of life?
I have grown up learning one should live life with causing minimum harm to others (with your behavior, lifestyle, dietary habits, etc). Minimizing the damage as much as you can. I believe that's my basic life moto. But for now all my energy is focused on constantly contemplating and planning what's next with my art practice. Right now art is my life. I feel art should mimic life and life should
How did you get to this point in your life?
As as child I have grown up learning art and have been most passionate about it. As I grew older I knew this is my calling and there is nothing else I would study or pursue. Being in India where art is considered as a hobby my father was extremely skeptical and worried about my choice. It was very difficult for me to convince him for college. (Picking art as a career option was his biggest concern and plus art schools being so expensive was not helping). I was determined and eventually it worked out.
I came to Chicago for education purpose. I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I received my BFA.
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid of leaving Chicago soon. My visa ends. I have been in Chicago for almost 4 years and have built my community of artists and friends here. I am afraid of loosing them. Also, I don't have many contacts in the art world back home and starting out fresh is another worry I have. I don't have an issue with going back home (home is Bombay, India) but the most important thing I am afraid of is being unproductive with my time as an artist. I absolutely hate and detest that. I hope, l will be wasting a lot of valuable time starting and setting up altogether again. Also, I believe the art scene unfortunately for emerging artist is not as established and I am scared for the lack of opportunities.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced as an artist, as a human being, as a societal member?
Being and practicing here in Chicago for four years, I have slowly and organically built my network and a pace a of growth. When I leave Chicago, I fear loosing all that. Making sure to keep the momentum going will be my biggest challenge. Also, India is going to be filled with challenges right from the basics of getting a studio, to get people to give a fuck about art, etc. I am very anxious but sort of excited to what comes next.
What are your dreams and has that changed your reality?
My dream has always been of being an artist and I am lucky enough to be living it. I hope I survive further.
What do you admire in yourself? What do you wish to improve upon yourself?
For positive - I am optimistic. For something I can improve - I am a little stubborn. It works positively and negatively depending on circumstances.
What is next? Where will you go? Who do you want to be in 10 years?
Next is moving back home to India at the end of March. It will be very challenging because art is not considered an established field plus people aren't appreciating enough. On a brighter side, things are changing rapidly back home and with that the awareness is spreading too in a good direction. I am anxious but extremely excited to be a part that accelerates that change.
In 10 years, I hope to help foster the necessary change that India badly needs and bring importance to the field of art in India. I want people to be more appreciative, caring and interested in their own rich history and culture. I hope to further the causes that are most dearest to my heart - furthering art education and art practice in India.