October 2018: Bahraini Artist Rashid Khalifa triumphs. ‘One of the most popular exhibitions Saatchi Gallery has witnessed’ (From the Management). So much so, it was extended twice, beyond all expectations.
It was a stunning surprise for many who know and greatly respect this gentle man not only for his incredibly amicable nature, but his dexterity when it comes to art.
It was not what most expected! ‘Rashid Khalifa The Artist – Penumbra Exhibition Saatchi Gallery London’. For a start, the physical nature of the work, was a departure from what Rashid normally displays, so it slightly confused those who are used to seeing Rashid’s other well known works. The full title is: ‘Penumbra: Textured Shadow, Coloured Light’ and to see what that is all about, one really does have to absorb themselves within the gallery and walk around the display a few times. Each time one does, the exhibition grabs hold and a realization that this is ‘quite brilliant’.
‘Penumbra’ and the Arabic word ‘Mashrabia’ (transliteration – Mashrabiah – Mashrabeah), is explained extremely well by Rashid himself in the video and it would not do justice to give an editorial explanation here. This explanation is endorsed and expanded on towards the end of the video by the two curators; Eva McGaw and Tatiana Palinkesev.
Bahrain has quite an active art scene and it has developed well beyond the insecure, stifled perceptions that the Arab world tends to be labeled with, sighting its strong religious doctrine, whereby the intimidated blurt out clichéd rhetoric referring to the arches and the minarets and so on, so often seen even in modern design. Oh no, and definitely on the contrary, Bahrain if anything, is overloaded with progressive artists who frequently display their creations at very well attended exhibitions. Just click around this very site to see so many more. In the eye of the beholder, but some of it is very worthy of a lot more international awareness and some artists are pursuing this with vigour. Rashid Khalifa is but one who has most positively taken his art to the world by displaying it at the renowned Saatchi Gallery off trendy Sloane Square in London.
Due to run just three weeks, the logistic nightmare of getting all this material from Bahrain to London without damage, then hung to perfection, would have been the most depressing nightmare had nobody turned up. No such thing; the doors opened and visitors poured in, sometimes by the dozens. The rooms in which the works hung were so often full from open until close and difficult for WhoDoesWhat.tv to capture a clean shot for future documentary material. Many tourists on a day out, just visiting recommended places of interest, initially wandered aimlessly around the gallery enjoying bits and pieces. So many setting their eyes on Penumbra kept walking at first wondering what it was all about. So very many decided to take a second go around, which is when the cameras came out and the posing started. Many uploading their pix to social media instantly, with a back drop of Rashid’s work. Like web site statistics which give number of visitors and time on site, this was something to witness. Being in the gallery all day, WhoDoesWhat.tv observed and it was quite rewarding seeing the sudden curiosity get the better of them as they stayed longer and longer absorbing detail. As stated above, the impact is immediate, but not for the art, more for the logistics. A few more curious looks and it suddenly dawns on most if not all, that Rashid Khalifa has produced an extremely unique technical and artistic masterpiece.
As the days went by, word spread and among the crowds were now art dealers, media critics and a curiously astonishing number of architects and designers. Coming soon, a video journal of the visitor’s book, spoken by those who had something to say (Drop back frequently to see if has been posted yet). Critics can be harsh, vain, brash and often pompous in their assessments. Rightly so, but nothing of the sort emanated from the hundred or so random guests WhoDoesWhat.tv spoke with.
Almost 3 weeks in and Christies show up, holding a reception. All coming as a surprise to those involved in the exhibition, the artist most of all. With the Bahrain Embassy in London also celebrating their pride at a Bahraini artist attracting so much attention, the Gallery Management at Saatchi asked to extend the exhibition another 4 weeks. This is unprecedented. Of course, WhoDoesWhat.tv who had the honour of supporting Rashid Khalifa from the outset, had to get back and departed London with the Artist, handing the reins over to the very competent curators; Eva McGaw and Tatiana Palinkesev.
Where too next? We could speculate Venice, New York, Oman, who knows? Wherever the invitation comes from. However, like everyone else, this artist has a busy day job, that being head of Immigration in Bahrain, so maybe we have to wait for annual leave arrangements, unless he can wangle a sick note.