Rashid Al Khalifa’s commitment to art is consistent with a long tradition of royal patronage of culture. But there is an added dimension to his commitment: decades of expressing it through his own creativity.
Rashid Al Khalifa, or simply Rashid Khalifa as he is known in the art world, started drawing at a very early age and showed both aptitude and promise that distinguished him from his school peers at a time when being an artist was not considered a career for anyone in the Gulf, let alone for a highly born Bahraini.
The then Emir wanted him to attend a UK police academy but young Rashid opted for the Brighton University instead where he pursued his passion for, and education in art.
His early work focused on landscapes and later figurative art, moving on to the experimental and decidedly contemporary/post-modernist.
BBeyond met with him at an exhibition of his works at the Saatchi Gallery London, where he is showing an installation with an underlying Middle-Eastern theme, Penumbra: Textured Shadow, Coloured Light.
The theme is ostensibly based on the traditional Mashrabiya windows but has a rich and layered context. It is representative of a way of life and of looking at the world through the distinctive lattices that allow a glimpse of the outside “through a thousand veils”, as it were, yet precluding any “outside” intrusion or interaction.
This is both literal and figurative, obviously, and interpreted quite neatly through suspended metal “mobile” columns that cast an intricate shadow on the floor below.
It follows that light plays a pivotal role in the presentation of the works and it is this juxtaposition of light and shadows that defines the cultural element of the exhibition as a whole. The same is true of the “grid maze” – a walk-through installation that is inspired by the historical area of Manama City, with its colourful narrow streets and latticed window embrasures, opening and closing to the world outside through small flaps.
Rashid Khalifa’s interest in transcending the traditional mediums of sculpture and painting and creating 3D works has been evolving for a while and underpins his current interest in working with painted aluminium and steel.
His metal wall sculptures, Hybrids, invite the public to participate in the creative experience – shapes and colours change as the viewer walks slowly past or moves at a different angle, revealing a surprising complexity and fluidity.
The installation shows, among other things, how the artist has evolved in his creative thinking and approach, and his capacity for producing large format concept woks for the public space.
Rashid Khalifa’s artistic endeavours spill over into overseeing the interior design of the family hotel portfolio and building an art collection of his own.
For a man who has defined cultural values in his country for several decades, he is surprisingly unassuming and engaging, striking a refreshing presence in a world that is often consumed by its own perceived importance and value to humanity at large.