Perhaps one of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s most well-known and prolific artists is Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa, a man behind realist, impressionist, individualist, and abstract pieces of art that have served to put his homeland in the map of artistic hubs worldwide. Particularly enhancing intercultural exchanges through his exhibitions, and often fostering cultural diplomacy in an indirect manner.
The timeline presented on his website, illustrated by key works in his œuvre, gives a concise account of his development as an artist, as well as his other roles and activities, and delineates the phases through which his devotion to painting has gone. While this account is illuminating and of contextual interest, it has to be considered not only in terms of the rapid development of Bahrain during his lifetime, but also against the wider context of evolution in the international art world.
It is important to note that this artist has concentrated on painting as the medium through which to express his inspiration from the natural world and the world of perception. He has so far not allowed himself to be diverted into the currently fashionable mediums of installation or time-based media such as video that too often grab the headlines in the press and broadcast media.
Instead he has been steadfast in his use of paint on a surface, and the exploration of this medium as a way of modulating colour and light to convey emotional and observational reflections of the world as he sees it, and, importantly, to communicate this to others through his works. This is not to say that Rashid Al Khalifa has become stuck in a rut, as some of his international contemporaries have done and who, having found a style that works and is commercially successful, continue to use it with very little development. Instead, he has gone on exploring the possibilities of paint, and the manner in which an essentially limited range of materials – paint to paint with and a surface to paint on – can be used to create works of art. The decisions that he has made have been considered, each one developing logically from the preceding ones, and have led to a dynamic evolution in his approach to the making of art.
It is significant that his commitment to the making of his own paintings has been accompanied by a parallel commitment to the advancement of the cultural life of his country through his founding role in the “Bahrain Art Society”, and more recently in the development of the online monthly art journal, artbahrain.org; which, together with its biannual print editions, highlights the work of artists and events in Bahrain, in the Gulf area, and internationally. Thus helping to promote cross-border cultural understanding as well as the personal contacts amongst the artists from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds based in the Gulf region.