Interview Highlights: Aakash Nihalani
One of the most important things that make an artist stand out from the crowd is his signature style. Aakash Nihalani is definitely one of those artists. However, his break-though story didn’t begin too long ago. Being a child of Indian parents, Nihalani was from a very young age pushed towards law and medicine. Eventually, when the time came for going to college, he went to political science and business. Soon he realised that he needed a change in his life, and with the encouragement from his colleague, Nihalani moved to the art program. This is where his artistic development started. In an interview given to Cool Hunting, Nihalani discussed his creative beginnings, his unique technique and the work in the streets.
The Power of the Tape
If you saw some of Nihalani’s works on the Internet, there is a big chance you’ll think he’s just another Photoshop expert. However, if you happen to run into his fluorescent installations or two-dimensional shapes in a gallery or in the streets, you’ll be stunned by the fact that Nihalani’s just very good at what he does. He uses simple materials like tape, plastics, magnets and wood to create geometric shapes that appear to be Photoshopped into the real world. ‘‘When I started working with tape it was completely awkward and weird and new. It opened me up to experimenting and feeling free and to not compare. I think comparing and feeling like you have to follow what somebody else did can lead you into results that they got instead of your own. The tape became a great way of bridging the gap between creation and exhibition. After the first tape installation in the gallery I was addicted. I plastered the NYU buildings, the janitors were pissed off at me, but it was easy to take down’’, Nihalani remembers.
After realising what he could do with only one tape, Nihalani took the work to the streets. Even though he never felt completely comfortable with the process and the mediums of it, the tape was perfect. ‘‘I could use my name, work in the daylight, if the cops stopped me I could say, “Look, it’s just tape,” and I can take it down and walk away. There’s this removal of the aggression, which freed me up a lot. From the beginning, a lot of the work had the mentality of a graffiti artist. Then I think over time, the work started to become a lot more site-specific, a lot more reactionary. It started to have this narrative quality to it. I always saw the graphics as becoming personified. You can look at this narrative and attribute your own feelings to the scene’’, Nihalani says.
The artist thinks that the key to the ‘Photoshop effect’ comes from the fact that the fluorescent colors and elements he uses don’t normally exist in the nature. ‘Beyond these inherent qualities, when I’m making the work there’s this point of perspective, a vantage point. Where the work attains this volume to it, a three-dimensional quality to it even though it’s flat. That graphic within the space of reality, gives such a contrast in the visual language. It automatically looks digital, like I placed it in there with a computer’, Nihalani concluded.