First Light

First Light
15 March - 10 September 2023

First Light

Heydar Aliyev Center

15 March – 10 September 2023

Baku, Azerbaijan

First Light Film

First Light Catalogue

Regularly inspired by his surroundings, Bahraini artist Rashid Al Khalifa formulates works that merge traditional and contemporary architecture with the natural environment. The light, colours and atmosphere specific to Bahrain’s landscape determine, to a large extent, Rashid’s resulting formations, as he transforms these qualities into prominent wall sculptures and immersive installations.

Whether his early landscape paintings from the 1980s, his later atmospheric abstractions from the mid-2000s, or his minimalist aluminium works from 2010 onwards, Rashid continually draws upon his experiences and environment as a source of inspiration. His latest work reminisces about the past at the same moment that it reflects on the future and in doing so, is suggestive of tradition and heritage, as well as inherent of a futuristic sensibility.

Bahrain’s topography has undergone drastic changes since Rashid embarked on his artistic career as a landscape painter in the 1970s, yet despite rapid urbanization, the spirit of those early days lingers. It is to witness the vivid pastel hues that are cast across the horizon at dawn, or the glowing sunset shimmering over teal blue waters; to experience the nostalgia of traditional architecture, or to feel the warmth of Bahraini culture, that evokes one’s memories of the past. In this way, Rashid aims to both immortalize these traditions and anticipate the transitions. Each period of Rashid’s oeuvre describes his ongoing investigation and desire to meld tradition with modernity, as well as the natural with the manmade. In many ways, his work is built on contrasts, through his subject matter and use of medium; a means to examine the transformation of his native landscape and to contemplate changes in his life.

First Light allows us to appreciate Rashid’s work as an amalgamation of a myriad of inspirations. These sculptures intersect tradition and the future; heritage and contemporary design; the environment and industry. Much like his native country Bahrain, itself a melting pot of multifarious influences, Rashid’s work brings seemingly divergent attributes together, resulting in compelling formations that possess of a distinct identity.


Despite the rapid explosion of modern buildings and urban planning, Islamic patterns and design elements have prevailed throughout contemporary culture in Bahrain. The rhythmic, linear and foliage arabesques (representations of divine nature), are elements of traditional design such as the mashrabiya, a distinguishing feature of Middle Eastern architecture. Typically, a projecting oriel window enclosed with carved wooden latticework on the second or higher story of a building, its original purpose was to ensure privacy so the occupants could see out but not be seen from outside, whilst also providing shade and protection from the searing heat and allowing a breeze to pass through. This balancing function and its metaphoric potential inspired Rashid to recreate the experience in what he defined as his Parametric series. Ostensibly opposing yet complementary forces- positive and negative, light and dark, interior and exterior- represent his research of order and symmetry. We also experience his expressions of the transcendent and ephemeral nature of light and shadow.

Fish Trap (Haddrah), Stainless Steel Installation

And we made from water everything that is alive, 2023, LED light, 30 x 300 cm

Black and Orange, 2022, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm

Circular Reflection, 2023, HR, Stainless steel and aluminium 150 x 150 cm

Every Sun has to Set, 2023, LED Light, 80 x 80 cm

Waves III, 2023. Enamel on aluminium, 120 x 120 cm

Waves, 2023, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm

Spherical Compression in Grey, 2020, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm

Spectrum VII, 2021, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm

Blue Parametric, 2018, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm

Spectrum VIII, 150 x 450 cm

Spectrum VI, 2021, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm

Spectrum V, 2021, Enamel on Aluminium, 150 x 150 cm