'The female form is mysterious'
Nishant Dange's paintings are a reflection of the artist's personality. They exude a feeling of calm and are sensitive portrayal of the female form. Dange's latest collection was on display at the Museum Art Gallery in Mumbai and the young artist has found a fan in some very important people in the Mumbai art circuit like Neville Tully among others.
Dange is a quiet man. He loves painting women but says he doesn't have anyone in particular he turns to for inspiration. Dange does however turn to Bhumika, his wife (who is also a painter) every once a while. He shoots her portraits and paints -- paper on charcoal. Most other times, he draws from memory or from newspaper and magazine clippings.
The 27-year-old artist tells Abhishek Mande his story and why the female form has never ceased to amaze him:
I graduated from the Shasakiya Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya (Government Art School) in Nagpur in 2004. Nagpur isn't really a place you can survive as an artist. For that you have to come to Mumbai or go to Delhi. So soon after I graduated, I came to Mumbai to pursue my dreams.
The initial days were difficult. I had to make money to survive. So I took up assignments to do illustrations and made ends meet. Anant Pai of Tinkle is a friend of one of my professors. I had contacted him before arriving here and the first few assignments came from him.
In the time I wasn't doing illustrations for Tinkle, I would scrounge bookstores in Mumbai, take down addresses of publishers and call them up. After calling up many people, some would agree to see my work and few others would give me work.
I was sure I did not want a full-time job'
Despite the struggle, I was sure I did not want to take up a full-time job. I graduated in commercial art and could have easily got a job with an advertising agency. However I was clear I didn't want to do it. The idea was always to become an artist and not an illustrator.
Having worked on a freelance basis as an illustrator for quite a few magazines, I realised how restrictive it can get. You draw something putting your heart and soul into it only to be told by someone that it isn't working. As an artist you don't have to take that kind of reactions, unless you really want to.
So, soon after I came to Mumbai, I filled up a form for a space at the Oberoi Art Galelery (in the hotel). I got a date in 2005 and much to my surprise I sold more than a dozen paintings.
Those days I would draw landscapes in watercolour. The shift to charcoal came quite by chance. Once when I was at home I decided to try charcoal on a whim. I drew a (woman's) figure and soon realised that this would be my medium.
'I was always fascinated with the female form'
I was always good at sketching and felt that I might be better off painting figures rather than landscapes. Landscapes can be very limiting. There are only those many houses and trees you can draw. Human sketches on the other hand offer innumerable possibilities.
As a student, I was always fascinated with the female form. I was interested in the human anatomy and had studied it in detail from an artist's point of view. Aesthetically it appealed to me but I hadn't really taken to it till recently. Today all my sketches have a woman in it -- either just her face or her entire body.
I don't have a muse. Most of my sketches are from memory. Some are from newspaper and magazine clippings. And now that I am married I click pictures of my wife and turn to them once in a while for inspiration. But for most part I am always drawing, doing rough sketches all day long.
The female form to me was always mysterious, which is why you will see that there are no defined strokes in my paintings. It's all a blur. In nature, I find the form of birds and butterflies just as beautiful. So you will also see a lot of those motifs in my paintings. Birds on ribbons, skirts in the shape of butterflies -- these things just come to me when I observe people around me.
'I refuse to make changes to my work'
Observation is an important aspect of being an artist as is being consistent. There are always time when I feel frustrated because I don't like what I am painting. For months at a stretch I don't produce anything productive. But during this time, I am always sketching away. During one such session something clicks and I start painting again.
There are always times when your clients will ask you to do something you may not want to do. At such times you have to decide whether or not to give in. So far, I have refused because I cannot make a painting larger than it already is or perhaps make the face bigger or make it look similar to my client. I have always put up everything I do for sale but have refused to make changes to my work.
Of course this does not mean I am not open to feedback. Having a painter for a wife helps. She is always giving me feedback and telling me what she liked about my painting and what she didn't.
'if you can do good work, it will get sold'
Once when we were showing as part of a group at a gallery in Delhi -- this was before we started courting -- she walked up to me, looked at a sketch and said 'I think this looks like me'. I said, "It is you!"
The group show in Delhi was where we first met. Bhumika's father Rameshwaran Takshak is a senior artist from Rajasthan. He had seen my paintings and had liked them too. It was a smooth ride because both our families approved of the match.
We got married in December and have rented an apartment in Mumbai. I am asked if I feel insecure and wonder where my next paycheque will come from. But that is never really a question. I feel if you can do good work, it will get sold. So far there hasn't been a moment when I woke up in the morning worrying about my next meal.
As an artist I am always curious and very observant. But most importantly I am consistent. This has held me in good stead. A lot of people are good but not consistent, which doesn't help. This is something that young artists must remember at all times. It is also important that one establishes his/her personal style and not get overshadowed by someone else's. I do visit a lot of galleries and watch a lot of paintings. But this has never come in the way of what I do and how I do it.