HE Shaikh Rashid Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa – Rashid Al Khalifa
I have been painting all my life. I believe that art is an ever evolving process and an artist needs to re-define how their art would fit into the global contemporary art conversation. That is why my work continues to adapt and mutate. Over the last 40 years I have developed my work by moving steadily back through the history of painting to reach the contemporary.
In the late 1990s I stumbled upon a formula that is subtle, a step towards the deconstruction of the picture plane. A canvas stretched by approximately 25 degrees resulting in a convex-shaped canvas, a structure that enabled my paintings to be seen in a different “light.” With the use of paint (oil, acrylic or enamel), and texture (fabric and glue, high-gloss or matte lacquer finish and mirror-like chrome) – the convex-shaped service (wood, aluminium and stainless steel) offered me a spontaneous and uninhibited form of expression. This departure from conventional compositional devices and manipulation of the canvas allowed me to use the elements of design in a process where the service, paint and the material are all equally important to make up the composition of the painting.
Through the use of geometry, my paintings are created from fragments of my natural surroundings such as landscape, light and the environment, rendered on surfaces that are reflective. I try to emphasise a duality between the real space perceived through or between the material and the reflected image. It can mean ‘to reflect’ or contemplate but also the literal reflection as in a mirror. In this kind of duality, there can be two very different visual realms in one work, first the image or shape you are looking at, and second, the reflection, demanding a different way of seeing.
Facing the artwork, it is as if we are looking at ourselves in the mirror, but we see our image in reverse and that is not how the world sees us because we don’t see ourselves as others see us.
To further add to the sense of disorientation, our transitory presence reflects back the myriad colours it captures in that moment.
Whether it be through how we reconstruct and interpret what we see or how our minds parse the information that will enable us to explain and understand what we are seeing, my artwork is a form of communication and sensorial engagement for self-exploration, for myself and the viewer.
Rashid Al Khalifa, Kingdom of Bahrain, 2015
Rashid Al Khalifa was born in Bahrain in 1952. He began painting at the age of 16 and had his first solo exhibition at the Dilmun Hotel, Bahrain (1970). He traveled to the UK in 1972 where he attended the Brighton and Hastings Art College in Sussex and trained in Arts and Design. Back in Bahrain in 1978, he took his cues from European impressionist masters. He was preoccupied with painting desert landscapes that exemplify the beautiful luminosity and mysterious spatial effects that he was able to conjure through his art-schooled technique. He showcased his magnificent landscapes at the Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C., USA and the Sheraton Hotel, Bahrain (1982).
With the atmospheric sensibility of his landscapes still firmly in mind, Rashid leaned towards more figurative work in the 1980s. His repertoire of poetic images cannot help but appeal to those fascinated with the celebration of human sentiment honestly and unabashedly expressed exhibiting characteristics peculiar to Romanticism, Abstract Expressionism and Impressionism which over time he developed his figures to a more gestural style.
However, whilst doing painterly works he was also responding to the trend – Geometric Abstraction, Hard-Edge painting and Color Field – he was pushing his work to abstraction. Rashid’s decision to merge elements of his figurative and landscape work in the late 1980s was an entirely conscious one; he was impelled to create work that conveyed a greater sense of self-expression, and that was inherent of the same energy that nature imparts on its viewers, while standing in its midst. Once noticeable figures become barely decipherable – hints of fabric, suggestions of limbs and cascades of hair, disperse and blend into a landscape of color.
Rashid’s continued progression towards abstraction in the early 1990s was the result of his desire to restrain his gestural and fleeting marks. His imagery gradually became more controlled, imparting a greater sense of tranquility. Suggestions of landscapes and traces of bodily forms appear to merge with hints of fabric, weavings, and botany, resulting in bold, biomorphic shapes. These works were exhibited in a solo exhibitions in De Caliet Gallery, Milan, Italy and El Kato Kayyel Gallery, Milan, Italy (1996), and Art Department, Shuman Arts Organization, Jordan (1997).
During the same period, he was also experimenting on the shaped canvas with three canvases joined together on both sides to form a triangle-shaped service. Although he appreciated the way in which its three-dimensionality allowed the work to stand unsupported on the floor allowing the viewer to appreciate it from all angles, he was unsatisfied with the final result. After further experimentation and an unintentional discovery, the convex canvas came into being towards the end of 1990s.
In the beginning of 2000, the ‘convex’ shaped-canvas was the primary structure that Rashid used for the merging of Landscape, Figurative and Abstract Expressionism in a Color-Field language that was scrapped, slashed etc. In these works, color was used metaphorically for content.
In 2006, bright colors remain, but these paintings demonstrate a fresh approach and conceptual framework. Brushstroke intensifications appear between colored forms producing an overriding optical effect with a painterly language. By 2009, his works clearly showed the transition from the formerly divisive lines to perfect synthesis of Color Field painting and gestural abstraction. Sweeps and sluices of eye-candy color with blends of flecked, blazing paint in thick impasto and loose brush strokes are applied with an expressionist touch. Working on the convex service for a decade, Rashid methodically developed his style, and finally found a distinctive voice with his ‘convex’ painting.
A solo exhibition at the Bahrain National Museum entitled, Convex: A New Perspective (2010) showcased a decade’s work in convex. To add to the collection was a series in a new media, such as lacquer paint, fabric and glue were introduced to compliment the canvas’ curvature. Rashid manipulates these materials in order to allow light to fall differently on the surface, thereby emphasizing the thick relief that he has created.
The scale of the canvas has become grander and the imagery itself, darker and more profound in nature, imparting a far more dramatic effect. The interaction with the viewer is not simply engaging, it is overwhelming. The ‘new perspective’ we were initially offered has became an inescapable present. These works reveal how different it is to think about Rashid’s relationship to tradition in relation to his contemporary moment and his personal development. In these new works, he imported the sensibility and techniques associated with design and are just as complex and developed as his old work. The incandescent lacquer finished ‘convex’ service is a new realm of artistic development reflecting an affinity for structure, balance, and visual order.
In 2011, Rashid has taken a further step in perfecting the expressiveness of his contemporary oeuvre through the mirror-like chrome plated convex service. His impulse to work from intuitive and improvised composition transformed the chrome service into a radical creative language and a definite formal contrast to the restrained Minimalist inspired “convex” 2010 series. This body of work would be celebrated in solo exhibitions the following year.
Enter Reflection, a new wave of painted abstraction that revisits Rashid’s color-field exploits in confined fields in which he knits enamel lines into a singular surface. The visual tension produced by the geometric passages of solid colors demonstrate a collision between flowing manual gestures of complex “woven“ surfaces that deliberately form facets that intersect one another, acting in concert with flows of paint which compete for attention within the declared centre. Reflection, a solo exhibition of new works by Rashid Al Khalifa at the Bahrain Financial Harbour Fine Arts Gallery and the Beirut Art Fair, Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure Center, Lebanon and a selection at Abu Dhabi Art, UAE (2012).
These mirror-like chrome and high-gloss lacquer artworks has been trailblazing over the past years. From Art Dubai – Dubai, UAE; Bahrain Contemporary Art; Russian Academy, Moscow; Art International Zurich, Switzerland to the Waterline Gallery, Bahrain. A solo exhibition at Beirut Art Fair, Lebanon and the Los Angeles Convention Hall, California, USA.
In May 2015, Rashid’s work reached Venice. In two separate exhibitions, the first being NOMI, a two-man exhibition in context with the biennale and for his participation at the 56th La Biennale di Venezia’s collateral events with seven Arab artists, Rashid unveiled the first of his three dimensional painting on aluminum. This painting landed him a spot at the Trio Biennial in Rio, Brazil where his three dimensional works evolved into Kinetic Art.
Rashid Al Khalifa’s work continuous to demonstrate how a ‘painting’ can transform and how his ideas and formal innovations ripple through contemporary practice.
Born 1952, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Hastings College of Arts, Brighton, England
2012 Reflection, BFH Fine Arts Gallery – Kingdom of Bahrain
2010 Convex: A New Perspective, Bahrain National Museum –
Kingdom of Bahrain
1997 Art Department, Shuman Arts Organization – Amman, Jordan
1996 De Caliet Gallery – Milan, Italy
1996 El Kato Kayyel Gallery – Milan, Italy
1982 Middle East Institute – Washington, D.C., USA
1982 Sheraton Hotel – Kingdom of Bahrain
1970 Dilmun Hotel – Kingdom of Bahrain
2015 Arab Delegation, TRIO Bienial – Rio Brazil
2015 In the Eye of the Thunderstorm, Collateral Events,
56th La Bienale di Venezia – Venice, Italy
2016 International TONDO Collection – Issoudun Museum –
2015 NOMI – Two-man show in context with the
56th La Bienale di Venezia – Venice, Italy
2013 In Dialogue – The Waterline Gallery – Kingdom of Bahrain
2016 Art Paris Art Fair – Paris, France
2014 WWALA – Solo Exhibition – Los Angeles, California, USA
2014 Art Dubai – Two-man show – Dubai, UAE
2013 Zurich Art Fair – Two-man show – Zurich, Switzerland
2013 Abu Dhabi Art – Abu Dhabi, UAE
2013 Art Dubai – Dubai, UAE
2012 Abu Dhabi Art – Abu Dhabi, UAE
2012 Beirut Art Fair – Solo Exhibition – Beirut, Lebanon
Exhibitions alongside the Bahrain Arts Society
2016 VIEWS – Ritz Carlton – Kingdom of Bahrain
2014 Bahrain – Asilah Arts & Culture Forum, Morocco
2013 Bahrain Contemporary Art, Russian Academy – Moscow, Russia
2007 Bahrain Contemporary Art, Unesco – Paris, France
2005 Modern Art Exhibition, Royal Ireland College of Surgeons –
2004 Two-man show – Berlin, Germany
Annual Art Exhibition 32- Bahrain National Museum – Kingdom of Bahrain
2002 Bahraini Culture Week – Amman, Jordan
Bahraini Culture Week – Peking, China
1999 Taipei Art Exhibition – Taipei, Taiwan
Sharjah Biennial – Sharjah, UAE
Delmun Exhibition – Paris, France
1998 Bahrain Arts Society Exhibition, Gallery Alexander –
1997 Art Expo Singapore – Singapore
Art America Exhibition – Miami, USA
Europe Art Festival – Geneva, Switzerland
Bahrain Arts Society Exhibition – Cannes, France
1996 Europe Art Festival – Geneva, Switzerland
Bahrain Artists Exhibition – Rome, Italy
Sharjah Biennial – Sharjah, UAE
1995 Two-man show, Hotel Du Rond – Geneva, Switzerland
and at the UN Center – Lusanne, Switzerland
1989 Bahrain Art Society Exhibition – Cairo, Egypt
1988 Festival of Asian Artists – Malaysia
New Art Center – Baghdad, Iraq
1986 First GCC Art Exhibition – Japan
1985 Cairo Biennial – Cairo, Egypt
Alia Center – Amman, Jordan
1984 Bahraini Artists, Leighton House – London, England
Salon des Artists Francises, Grand Palais – Paris, France
1981 Raffles Hotel Singapore – Singapore
1978 Hilton Hotel – Kingdom of Bahrain
1975 Gulf Hotel – Kingdom of Bahrain
1973 Periodic GCC Youth Exhibition – Kingdom of Bahrain
1972 College of Arts Exhibition – Brighton, England
1969 First Art Exhibition, Gulf Hotel – Kingdom of Bahrain
For more information:
Homepage of Rashid Al Khalifa: www.rashidalkhalifa.com
Bahrain Arts Society: www.bahartsociety.org.bh
Art Bahrain: http://artbahrain.org/home/
Wikipedia profile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashid_bin_Khalifa_Al_Khalifa
Royal House: http://royalark.net/Bahrain/bahrain.htm