The paintings featured here are a celebration of my lifelong obsession with the play of light on water, sky and landscapes. Apart from my interest in painting wildlife and other subjects and doing illustrations for publications, all things related to the sea have always been a source of endless fascination for me – trawlers, harbours, reefs, corals, flocks of sea birds, the sea and sky in their many moods and colours and especially, the legendary lighthouses.
Maybe it’s their history, the many secrets they seem to hold, the stories of the people they house and of lives saved… maybe it’s just the brooding romance of them standing tall and flashing a light of comfort and hope to a weary seafarer out on the dark waves… maybe it’s just how, in an increasingly fractured world, they are like a beacon of humanity shining their guiding light for one and all… lighthouses have a special place in my heart. My fascination for them has triggered off many an expedition to capture their mysterious, rugged beauty on canvas. Years ago, in various shows in the USA, I exhibited paintings of all the lighthouses along the coast of California, which were highly appreciated by the artist fraternity there.
As for India, I am thoroughly in love with the vast coastline of our beloved country and, of course, the imposing lighthouses, many of which are over a century old. So much so that I decided to visit all of them by way of five different expeditions over the last few years. This involved travel of over 35,000 kilometres by road and many nautical miles around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, visiting tiny seaside towns and hamlets not marked on standard tourist maps, and capturing on camera the vibrant coastal life, be it fisherfolk, boat builders, ships, dhows, the flora and fauna and, of course, the lighthouses. It was wonderful to talk to and hear the stories of the lighthouse keepers who live in isolation but unafraid, proud to keep their lights burning so that seafarers may have safe passage along the jagged coast. Some of these journeys were quite risky, but they were a most memorable and fulfilling experience.
These expeditions and the resultant paintings in different media (watercolours on paper, oil colours on canvas, pastels on paper, and also simple pencil sketches on paper) have been instrumental in helping me evolve as an artist. It’s been my good fortune to have my solo exhibitions (since 2008) graced by distinguished personalities and much appreciated by the public. My work on the lighthouses led to further specialization in marine art, with painting assignments for the Mazagaon Dock, and several paintings commissioned by the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy for their various establishments, including the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, INS Valsura, and Mumbai and Visakhapatnam Naval Dockyards (paintings of various warships, missile carriers, frigates and aircraft carriers are on permanent display at various defence establishments).
On a side note, I am glad that the recent decision of the Indian Government to bring 78 lighthouses under the tourism umbrella will go a long way in retaining the enduring legacy of these structures. Moreover, the modern radar systems installed at these lighthouses will help in strengthening the coastal security of India and maintaining the visual quality and identity of our entire coastline.
Thank you for your interest in my work. The way I see it, an artist’s journey is like travelling towards the horizon… it is always there but never reached – one may keep developing one’s skills but can never claim complete mastery – that is for others to say! Meanwhile, the sea calls to me again… hinting at adventures anew and more lighthouses to explore. May you too go on many an adventure, and may you always find a lighthouse to guide you on your way.
Do visit my website www.mohankhare.com to see more of my work or contact me for further queries.
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