• Enamel on Stainless Steel
  • 400 x 300 x 1200 cm

For over a century, the island nation of Bahrain has offered a platform for contemporary design and architecture, and yet, much of the country’s rich, ancient history, continues to be seen through remnants of its early structures and traditional buildings. Traders, seafarers, pearl merchants and travellers have long traversed and dwelled on this desert island and remnants of their homes, villages and traditional ways of life, are a constant reminder of their presence.  Furthermore, the social and cultural setting, as well as aspects of the natural environment,  have widely influenced the functional design of the island’s living spaces. Typically designed with an open central courtyard, traditional Bahraini homes were connected and assembled with careful and thoughtful consideration of their position within the landscape; the direction of the rising and setting sun, the draft of the cool morning breeze and the structure of the family network, all played an important role in determining their position and design. It is this that inspired the most recent work of Rashid Al Khalifa, whereby he considered ways in which to artistically express these elements of heritage and explore their functionality within contemporary society.

Despite the rapid evolution of contemporary architecture and urban planning in the Gulf, Islamic pattern as an element of design, has prevailed throughout contemporary culture and in many ways, whether consciously or not, influenced Rashid Al Khalifa’s most recent work. The rhythmic, linear, floral and vegetal patterns known as ‘arabesque’,  employed to represent the spiritual attributes of the natural environment, were often incorporated into the mashrabiya, a characteristic of Middle Eastern architecture. Typically a projecting oriel window, enclosed with carved wooden latticework on the second story of a building or higher, the mashrabiya’s  purpose was to ensure privacy where the occupant of the building can see but cannot be seen, whilst also giving shade and protection from the suns heat, allowing a breeze to pass through. It was the duality of such a feature, that inspired Rashid to recreate this sentiment in the what he defined as his Parametrics. These works are built on such contrasts, inherent of seemingly opposing and yet complimentary forces such as positive and negative, light and dark, interior and exterior. In their creation and through his experimentation with order and symmetry, Rashid was able to explore and express the spiritual features and the physical constructs that had long inspired him, resulting in works that emit the ephemeral and transcendent nature of light and shadow.

Inspired by the narrow alleyways of old Bahrain,  Maze (2018) stands sublime and gleaming, an ode to the vast network of hidden streets that connect the traditional homes and villages around the island.  The grid-like framework of the partitions that constitute the entire structure, incorporate colourful flaps randomly placed over certain parts of the grid. When walking amidst the work, the spectator is both within and without the foundation and concurrently presented with both the interior and exterior world.  The playful and whimsical nature is inviting to children and adults alike,  whereby upon encountering the work, the spectator plays a participatory role in its presence and become intricately involved in its aura, through the synchronicity of the sounds, colours, movement and soft shadows that emanate from it.

Copyright © Rashid Al Khalifa