Cracking the code of Vibhor Sogani’s Design

One by one the lights come to life. Their dazzling iridescence spreads a warm haze in the dark setting where a man engages his audience in rapt attention as he narrates his design journey, or rather what brought him to it. I am one of them. As I listen to Vibhor Sogani, one of India’s leading installation and product artist, I realise Vibhor is still the excited kid at heart, exploring and adding to his repertoire, one fascinating work at a time. After close to 25 years since he set up his 35,000 sq ft studio, the fire in the design maverick is yet to rest. Every day, every work is a challenge that he courts with glee. Because, it all is a breath-taking experiment waiting to succeed. And, for what it’s worth, Vibhor is always at it.
My mind slips a wee bit while listening to how he honed his product designing skills at NID, Ahmedabad, after growing up in Jaipur in a setting where he often found himself on the field with his geophysicist father. The processes of mining and the technicalities somewhat imbued in him the love for metals. My eyes drift towards a massive steel installation resembling a flame. The undulations on the structure is minutely close to the original, and they catch the light of the surroundings to glamorously shine. My sight moves to a giant branch with each segment holding a globe that glows with blue and orange light. “I love working with scale. It gives the products a larger than life aura. For instance, if you see Kalpavriksha-the wish fulfilling tree, a 30 feet installation at a golf course in Ahmedabad, you notice, how it matches the expanse of the landscape. That it is humongous adds to the appeal,” Vibhor cuts into my reverie.
There is a curious abstract nature to his works, which are even sometimes borrowed from the specifics of geometry and nature. For instance, his gigantic lotus leaves in steel, sport the intricacies of the real plant but when viewed aerially they appear as dots on an expansive verdure patch of land. But, if you have a small pretty fish pond at home, adorn them with Vibhor's smaller steel lotus leaves. They lend that edgy chic in décor. Crashing cube, when deconstructed is a formation of small steel spheres and wires put together with the precision of a mathematician. It’s as if the cube has suddenly fallen on the glass surface and smashed its perfect structure. “What is design without a bit, actually, lots of drama,” chortles the designer.
And drama there is in his Gandhi installations titled, ‘Mahatma in Me’, a collection of 3D works combining steel and iron (Vibhor uses copper and brass in some of his works as well) that floored the spectator in 2015 at Mahatma Mandir in Gujarat. He was invited to participate at the celebrations to commemorate 100 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s homecoming to India from South Africa.  This collection, his tribute to the father of the nation, exhibited the artist’s expertise in playing with steel in a subtle yet suggestive manner so that the works start unravelling themselves as the viewer gradually walk up to it. Multidimensional and figurative in character, the works range from the face of the leader, to his footsteps (in memoriam of the Dandi March, the full form and various other facets of Gandhi). “The exhibition was an attempt to showcase Gandhi's values of peace, equality and non-violence through stainless steel installations. Subtle images with a few impressions of his thoughts are expressed in reflective steel, making us ponder for a moment on the Mahatma within all of us,” elaborates Vibhor.

For anyone who likes to be surrounded by beautiful design, the Vibhor Sogani studio at Silver Oak Farms in Ghittorni is a haven. You can lose yourself in the magical space, glowing in the ambient light from the light installations created by the man himself. Lights that have a celestial spark to them and dimensions that are opulent. As I walk around with the artist, I observe how he nurtures every baby of his. “Good designs can only be relevant if they are functional and they follow the rules of sound technical detailing. For example, look at this light. It looks fancy, but if the light emanating out of it is not balanced to the correct degree, it will fail in the parameters of great design,” Vibhor points to a lamp that looks like it is folded paper. It is his sound technical background that has marked his products with a stamp of fabulous aesthetics, accuracy and solid engineering. The maestro is readying a fresh set of light and art installations that will be showcased at the Messe Frankfurt Fair next month. 

Given his diverse interests, Vibhor has engaged in a wide range of creative projects in the areas of exhibition, graphic, retail and product design, for top global brands. Over the years he has exhibited his works in various design and art shows. But while all this kept happening, somewhere in his heart the designer in him wanted to design for the sake of fabulous art and creativity. And that is a sweet space Vibhor is in today. Honours such as Indian Art Icon of the Year 2014, received in Singapore, has only made the journey more exciting. He has been recently nominated by the Government as a member of governing body of the India Design Council, he informs.

Photo Credit: Arvind Uplands

The accolades, big and noteworthy, will keep pouring in. What actually eggs on the designer is his drive to create something that will take people’s breath away. “Steel is a durable material which was earlier only relegated to the realm of necessary household items. I have always tried to flaunt the extravagant side of steel, which might be simple in sight but intricate in execution. The other materials came in later but steel has always been the hero,” avers Vibhor as he points to a chandelier with a steel bead cylindrical screen cascading down from it. The lights and the drama does take my breath away…
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