April 23, 2019

Rashid Al Khalifa, his realm of art from Bahrain to the world

By Richard Noyce and Baron Henri Estramant.


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.


For Rashid Al Khalifa Works:



The new paintings

At the beginning of 2014 the artist made a series of paintings on a unified theme, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his marriage. Each painting, 60cm square, intended for display as a grid of 5 x 6 elements, was made on a convex chrome surface and comprised a heart shape in a range of pastel colours with an interlaced set of dripped lines in enamel that are of necessity made swiftly, and which can be seen to refer to the fabric of society and relationships: as the artist says, ‘Lines are endless, they can go into infinity and create an endless story.’

This work, that has deep personal connotations for the artist, played an interesting interim part in his work of that year, and led on to a further set of paintings on convex chrome, lacquered in a range of greys, once again featuring the motif of the circle in the square. Devoid of colour, and perhaps more sharply because of this, these paintings offer a quietly meditative proposition to the viewer.

The strength of Rashid Al Khalifa’s work lies in its simple and yet complex initial appearance that on deeper consideration reveals a powerful evocation of abstract form and colour, which reaches out from the walls of the places in which it is seen and into the experience of those who encounter it. Such directness of expression and communication, with such a diversity of potential personal interpretation, is to be welcomed. This is work with a truly international relevance that offers much to consider, slowly and with open eyes, in an art world that, like so much else, is sometimes prone to rapid changes of taste and fashion. By contrast, the work of this artist has a strong quality that has the power to withstand the passage of time, remaining thought-provoking and relevant, offering stillness and strength that transcends all boundaries.

About the artist:

His Excellency Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa bin Hamad bin Isa AL KHALIFA (b. 1952) is currently Undersecretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs at the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Bahrain. He is married to Her Excellency Sheikha Lulwa bint Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, only daughter of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman, Prime Minister of Bahrain. Together they are parents to six children, Sheikh Abdullah, Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikha Noor, Sheikha Hessa and Sheikha Aisha. As a government official he served also at the former Ministry of Culture as Undersecretary for Tourism and Antiquities.

He is a grandson of Bahrain’s Hakim (Ruler), Sheikh Sir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (reigned 1932-1942).

Sheikh Rashid serves as Honorary President for Bahrain Arts Society. He lives in Rifa’a just outside of Manama, Bahrain’s capital city. He began experimenting with art at an early age in Bahrain, and moved to professional instruction in the south of England (University of Hastings).


A book entitled Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, 40 years of painting, from himself, by himself, for himself (ISBN 978-99901-03-52-6) showcases his life’s œuvre.


For more information:

Homepage of Rashid Al Khalifa: www.rashidalkhalifa.com

Bahrain Arts Society: www.bahartsociety.org.bh

Art Bahrain: http://artbahrain.org/home/

Wikipedia profile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashid_bin_Khalifa_Al_Khalifa

Well-known persons: http://www.wellknownpersons.com/person/lsp.Rashid_bin_Khalifa_Al_Khalifa.sq75954.htm


Richard Noyce is a writer and artist, who has for the past thirty years written about the international visual arts. His reviews, interviews and features have appeared in press and online journals in a number of countries. In recent years he has specialised in writing about Polish Art, including two major books on painting and graphic art in that country, and international contemporary printmaking, on which he has written three well-received books. He is also an experienced international competition juror, curator, conference speaker and lecturer.)


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