Rashid Al Khalifa is an artist whose latest exhibition “In Parallel” is reflective of where he is come from while looking to the future and highlighting the evolution of his artistic style over several decades. Rashid Al Khalifa is likewise Sheikh of Bahrain, he wants his art to make its own statement believing that his status should not shape perceptions of the work he produces. He actively wants people to contemplate the art itself and abandon any pre-conceptions of what a “regal brushstroke” should look like.
Since first seriously picking up a paintbrush when he was just 16, Rashid Al Khalifa has gone on to create a significant body of artworks. While he loves to see his art hanging on the gallery wall, he is also an enthusiastic and early adopter of Google Arts & Culture. This interactive online platform allows for much wider access to a huge range of œuvres d’art digitized and displayed for all to enjoy. It’s an adaptable resource which successfully shows art in an informative and attractive way drawing users to linger and discover even further. Rashid Al Khalifa has embraced Google Arts & Culture as a member and contributor. It has also become another way to drive awareness of his art foundation “Royal Bridges” – a forum to show the work of artists drawn from the world’s royal, princely and noble houses, and which he co-founded with Managing Director Baron Henri Estramant.
Hosted by HH Sayyida Susan Al Said’s space Bait Muzna Gallery in Muscat, Oman, an exhibition called “In Parallel by Rashid Al Khalifa” is the latest in a series of international opportunities to encounter the artist’s breadth of work and his depth of technique. I met Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa at the opening of this exhibition in Oman and spoke with him about his artistic evolution and the digital future:
Sheikh Rashid, your artworks are currently featured in an online exhibition by Google Arts & Culture. What’s your opinion on digitization of art?
„When my Royal Bridges’ co-founder Henri Estramant called my attention to the platform, I was enthused simply because it facilitates sharing art globally, making it accessible for people to enjoy. I am not the person who thinks art ought to be piled up in storages; it should be accessible to inspire others, to beautify our world. In fact, I am myself opening my private art collection in Bahrain every Friday for the public, for free to see and interact. Through digitization the mission to ‘art up’ our world is simpler, and allows us to reach even distant places as long as Internet is available there.“
The Bait Muzna Gallery has gathered together an outstanding selection of Rashid Al Khalifa’s art from early examples of his landscapes to some of his latest minimalistic and parametric pieces. What’s immediately clear from an initial wander around the exhibition is the sheer dexterity and attention to detail in his work. There is a strength of feeling in the portrayal of the desert landscape of his native country. In “Camels at Rumaitha Wadi” (1983), he captures the heat and the intensity of the light and successfully reveals the nature of a wadi itself – a usually dry channel or valley where the water only gathers in the rainy season. It’s a special topography of lines, shadow and reflection – themes that emerge strongly in his later work.
“Pulse” (2009) for instance, is an exploration of the idea of equilibrium and shows the artist experimenting with assorted materials to draw the viewer towards the richness of the texture and the crafted combination of colors. It’s a piece of work that justifies closer inspection and consideration of the skill of this artist’s technique.
Rashid Al Khalifa found his initial expression through an exploration of the landscape and architecture of Bahrain. However, he has developed and evolved as an artist and now applies his own history and understanding of the memories which have shaped him to his contemporary work. There is a real theme of contrast as this artistic career has developed. It is clear to see with “Blue Parametric” (2018) and “Green Parametric” (2019) which introduce geometric patterns and add to the intensity of color. They also hint at the traditional building styles of Bahrain while gently evoking a feeling of movement rather like the ripple of water or crops caught in the wind. These are images with the capacity to make the viewer stop, stare and explore.
By capturing‚ Rashid Al Khalifa’s‘ shifting style and avoidance of complacency, Bait Muzna Gallery presents a window into the artist’s world; a window open for all to enjoy as well as a pensive artistic retrospective after his much-acclaimed shows last year at Saatchi Gallery in London ‘Penumbra: textured shadow, coloured light” and “Les Roses de Bagatelle” curated by Guerlain art in Paris.
Sheikh Rashid, your latest art transformed from rather traditional paintings to contemporary 3D inspired art. What does transformation mean to you and how has your transformation been shaped in the past years?
„As an artist I am convinced that personal art ought not to remain within but ‘one style’, rather it must evolve, challenge the artist and bring him/her into new realms of creativity. Many artists are easily recognized for a single style, in my case I prefer to mutate and push myself to new boundaries, new materials, novel designs for me, otherwise I would be a ‘zombie artist’ sticking to one style.”
What has inspired you most – now and then?
„My middle Eastern heritage plays a pivotal role in my older and newest creations. As you noticed the 3D inspired art pieces, such as a „Mashrabiya“ that I set up and exhibited last autumn at Saatchi Gallery in London is inspired by idiosyncratic Arab architecture just as my paintings from 30 years ago.“
More art works and design concepts by the innovative artist can be seen at luxury hotels he has been collaborating with, such as the Four Seasons Hotel in London Belgravia, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manama, Bahrain and the Grand Hôtel du Lac, located in idyllic Vevey, Switzerland.