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In the studio with… Rashid Al Khalifa

26 September 2023

A member of the Bahraini royal family and honorary president of the National Council for Arts, Rashid Al Khalifa paints large-scale canvases which veer, in subject matter and mood, between the desert and the sea, taking in a plethora of historical landmarks in his home country of Bahrain. Early his career he experimented with organic shapes and swirling patterns; now, he is more likely to focus on geometric forms. Yet he has always continued to draw from traditional Middle Eastern design and architecture. A recent series of installations is presented by De Musson Fine Art at LAPADA Art and Antiques Fair in Berkeley Square, London (27 September–1 October).

Where is your studio?

On my property which is located in Jasra, a coastal village on the west of the island of Bahrain. Jasra is a very calm, green and peaceful place. I have had my studio there since 1994, although I didn’t start working from it until about a year later. I had previously been working from the Bahrain Art Society’s studio spaces, a society that I helped to establish in 1983.

Rashid al Khalifa’s studio featuring Crossing the Nile (2023). Courtesy RAK Art Foundation

How would you describe its atmosphere?

Modest in size, airy, with good natural light during the day and good lighting in the evening. When I enter my studio, I feel a sense of comfort and ease. I go for one reason and for one reason only – to focus on my work and calm my mind. I would say it’s very personal – there’s no real sense of order – you might call it ‘organised chaos’, which I love. It allows me a break from the constraints of daily life.

Does anything frustrate you about the space?

I often feel that it’s not large enough for extra-large works and would prefer a bit more open space around me.

Rashid al Khalifa in his studio, 2022. Photo: Oliver Mark

Rashid Al Khalifa in his studio, 2022. Photo: Oliver Mark

Do you follow a specific routine when you’re in the studio?

I don’t have a specific routine but I usually visit the studio in the evening after a long day. If there is something that I have been previously working on, I just contemplate the unfinished works until a specific detail catches my eye and then I work on it. I usually spend about two hours in my studio – which might not seem like long, but it works best for me. I prefer to spend a shorter amount of quality, focused time and then come back the next day with a fresh perspective.

Rashid Al Khalifa’s studio. Courtesy RAK Art Foundation

What do you listen to while you work?

I normally prefer easy listening music on the radio. Saudi Aramco has an FM station that is wonderful for its range of musical genres, so I tune in just before I start working.

What’s the most unusual object in your studio?

It depends on what you mean by unusual. To me, nothing seems odd, but rather familiar! I do have an unusual Venetian mask, a painting by Kandinsky and a collection of vintage cameras that I’ve been collecting for decades.

Works by Rashid al Khalifa are on show at LAPADA Art and Antiques Fair, London, from 27 September–1 October.