About the Artist

Bhalchandra Mandke

Bhalchandra Mandke is a self-made man. Coming from a very modest, yet upright, joint family of 35 members, the journey of this artist in his life is something, which is an object lesson for all the aspiring, young artists of today. The amount of hard work that has gone behind making him an artist is nothing, but awe-inspiring. Doing 1000 illustrations just to master the line-work, working nearly 20 hours a day for 30 years, handling everything from signboards, to comic-book illustrations, to miniature models of large artefacts, to landscapes, to huge posters, has made Mandke what he is today. Any amount of description of Mandke’s work would not reveal the dedication and passion that has been the driving force behind it. His abstracts therefore, give voice to his emotions in more ways than one. Remarkably, in spite of all the hardships and turbulence in his personal life, Mandke’s spirit is in no way dampened. He, like all his paintings, is highly energetic and joyful, with no dull or dark patches whatsoever.

For someone, who couldn’t even afford to eat two square meals in a day, getting good drawing material for his study was just not possible. However, what lacked in the material was more than compensated in the undying passion and steely resolve to become a good artist. Honesty in conduct and sincerity in effort have been the hallmarks of Mandke’s life as an artist. That’s perhaps the reason why, eminent artists of the yesteryears, Pratap Mulick, J. D. Gondhalekar, G. B. Dixit, Gopalrao Deuskar, and professors from Abhinava Kala Mahavidyalaya, always stood behind him and guided him in his path to glory; something that he acknowledges with utmost reverence.
About the paintings
One strong element in Bhalachandra Mandke’s paintings is the stunning visual impact. There’s a certain dynamism in his strokes, not to mention the use of colours which makes it difficult for the viewer to just glance through the painting.

Be it the ship sailing in water or the moonlight lighting up odd spots in an assortment of objects, Mandke’s rendering of it on canvas is a visual treat. Imagine an over inflated balloon. When you prick it, it would shoot around in the most unexpected angles and paths with great force. The latent emotions of Mandke, pricked by the creative urge when he sees the possibilities in a composition, one feels, display the same character. They simply touch the unlikeliest of aspects of the composition and the force is unmistakeable in his strokes. Perhaps it is this raw power of his emotions rooted in his rural background, which lends starkness to his paintings. A tumultuous crimson can be found in nearly all his works and even an otherwise serene symphony of imagery acquires a vibrant note like a counter tenor.

Mandke’s paintings do not offer the luxury of an ordinary visual experience. The viewer is compelled to think, riding on the pointers strewn around by the artist. In that sense he doesn’t let the viewer to flip through, rather he arrests his mind and ignites his thought process. That is a tremendous achievement for an artist. Even an untrained eye would find it hard not to stumble upon something in each painting.

Flamboyance is the underlying principle in all of Mandke’s paintings. Almost as if he sees things in crimson, the red hue is omnipresent in them. Another aspect is the force in his strokes. The objects, though in abstract form, are forceful in their expression. Finally, the choice and their deft application on canvas of the colours make Mandke’s paintings come alive. The schemes are masterly and the knife moves with the precision of a scalpel.

Another salient feature of Mandke’s paintings is the creation of an atmosphere. Mandke is quite eloquent is what he says and what he avoids saying when it comes to the props. In the painting depicting the column of dust, death and destruction settling down after a war, lavish use of yellow ochre creates the melancholy. In the painting of the advent of spring, the lifelessness in the backdrop comes out in the dark colour scheme. The strong white strokes of the water splashed by the speeding ship are accentuated by the stillness of the second ship that is a silent spectator. That’s minimalism for you.

Then take the case of the painting showing moonlight reflecting in the oddest of spots and you would find quite a detailed background. Or the one of an urban sunset, where you see the bushes along a compound wall of a house and also the water flowing near it. These details help build the evening atmosphere beautifully. In these paintings, the brush is eloquent in creating a suitable background.

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