So, I’m determined to experience art (as well as books, film, music, TV and even food) from every country in the world., where it is feasible for me to do so. Some of the smaller countries are proving more difficult than others though, with Middle Eastern island nation Bahrain (population 1.5 million) till now remaining yawningly blank on my index of countries and my progress made throughout the globe over the past two years.
However, I’ve been blown away by the work produced by contemporary Bahraini artist Rashid Al Khalifa (born in 1952). Although a member of the ruling royal family, his avant-garde work is not what you might associate with pre-conceived notions of art produced by ‘the establishment’.
I really wish I’d caught this exhibition of his work, shown in 2018 at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Surprisingly perhaps, his early works were more traditional: desertscapes, seascapes, and abstract nudes. His work, spanning four decades, can be seen on his website here.
Using enamelled stainless steel, in recent years he has created large-scale geometric structures (‘Pressure Wave’ 2018 is pictured above), which are resonant of the city skyline. These works of hard-edged geometric abstraction evoke the history of the modernist grid, and could be seen as relentlessly impersonal. But these hanging installations seem to vibrate, creating a matrix that plays with optical illusion. Shadows form patterns in fine lines on the floor of the space in which they are exhibited, depending on the light, the degree of gradation and overlapping effects. Al Khalifa considers these shadows to form an intrinsic part of the work, which, as Elle Germany noted, ‘come to life with the slightest movement to create a sort of light show’.