Nishant Dange – The Sorcerer of Charcoal

“The ethereal enigma of the female form forced me into a deep contemplation and then the butterfly came into the picture,” says Nishant Dange, reminiscing the evolution of his current series of paintings. These words about his journey resonate on a transcendental level with the eternal truths of nature. Insects, as the ultimate paradigm of metamorphosis, exemplify that at times, to foster change, a period of withdrawal from outside activity and a plunge into inner wisdom is imperative after the laying of a new foundation. The emergence of an adult butterfly from a caterpillar only happens when the conditions are just right, tying back to the replication of this progression in Nishant’s oeuvre.

Born in Nagpur, Nishant Dange received his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the Government Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya, Nagpur, in 2004. Throughout his education, he bagged the top honors as a first class student every year and also received a Gold medal from the Institute. Though the majors of his education were in applied art, he was always attracted towards painting, sketching and landscaping. In 2005, he came to Mumbai and started working as a freelance illustrator for India Book House (IBH), Grey Worldwide, Balvidhya Publications, etc. His first solo show was of watercolor landscapes at the Artwalk Gallery, Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai in 2006. Steadily gaining recognition and making his mark on the art world, Dange was honored with the Bombay Art Society Award in 2007.

The Evolution of Themes and Media

Nishant’s artistic voyage from landscapes in watercolors to a solitary portrayal of the mysteries of women after mastering charcoal as a medium has been phenomenal. This colossal change is even more breathtaking for it preserves his signature exquisiteness in all his works.

The landscapes – the city and village scenes – are brazenly focused onto a central object, the core of the theme of that particular painting. This focus is the one that deserves a definition by Nishant’s brush soaked in watery hues. The core’s embodiment in meticulously delineated detail is surrounded by blurred backgrounds, left to the mind of the observer to impose on that blurriness their own inner details. As the observers complete the essence of the painting with their own viewership, a silent interaction arises that, as a whole, comprises Nishant’s art.

Often in Nishant’s earlier landscapes, a building replete with architectural detail would be lent a human presence through a woman with her back to the canvas, but the surroundings – the road, the trees and the clouds in the sky would sacrifice their great detail to lend an exquisite mystique to the entity on focus. With his incessant experimentation with charcoal, Nishant seems to have revealed that women’s face in his current series of paintings. The change of medium and the distance of observation had led to a place where one is up close with her impeccable beauty and radiance.

A Unique Concoction of Humans and Nature

Nishant’s latest series of paintings draws on an almost photographic aesthetic and combines it with a bold drama of minimalism created using a handful of primary colors. The peacefully gradating black and greys are lit by either a flood of monochromatic hues seeping through the entire female face or a touch of vibrant color imparted to a butterfly or a flower. It bears a distinct whiff of surrealism perceived through the intriguing juxtaposition of images of the female faces with butterflies and birds brought to life in great structural detail. This detail transcends the boundaries of the insect and overflows onto the human as if in an attempt to bare the thread of the underlying fabric of our being.

Dange’s paintings are at once primal, spiritual and mystical. Primal because of the fusion of butterflies, flowers, etc. with the human presence on canvas, spiritual because the women, with their eyes shut, seem to be immersed in meditation and mystical because the observer is denied the instant gratification arising from the comprehension of the women’s mood had her eyes been open.

From Carbon to Art

The seamlessness of charcoal lends a photographic quality to Nishant’s paintings. The interplay of precise detail and an impenetrable haze is possible only due to his vast experience and practice with charcoal. “Charcoal comes nicely on paper but paper has some limitations. So I started using charcoal on canvas. In the beginning, I found it extremely difficult and thought it was impossible to get that desired effect on canvas. However, practice makes a man perfect and after spending a couple of months, doing experiments, finding the right canvas, I finally managed to master a command over the medium,” he explains. Now, after all the hard work, Nishant reaps the inner satisfaction of being able to conjure beauty with just piece of black stick.

It has been over 10 years since Nishant started using charcoal as his preferred medium but he still feels that the journey is far from complete. “I am so much in love with charcoal, that I can’t even think of any other medium for my painting,” he muses. Till now, the fruits of this love have mesmerized the entire world with their magnificence and we are absolutely sure that the future is bound to dazzle us even more.

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