‘Penumbra: textured shadow, coloured light’ Rashid Khalifa (exhibition review)

Rashid Khalifa’s exhibition does not require lengthy explanations. The title ‘Penumbra: textured shadow, coloured light’ describes the contents very well. Penumbra, or partial shadow is the integral part of the installation. Do not be discouraged by what looks like an assemblage of metal cages at first glance. Do enter and enjoy this visual feast. Look at the light and shadow patterns. Take your time to look at the artworks up close and from different angles. Get inside the colourful maze.

Rashid Khalifa – Grid Maze (2018, enamel on steel bars) view from the exhibition Penumbra, photo: Ground Impressions

The exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is the first London show for Rashid Khalifa (alternatively, Rashid Al Khalifa) who is a well-established artist in Bahrain. Although it may not be immediately obvious, the artworks in Penumbra were inspired by the mashrabiya, which is an architectural element derived from traditional Islamic architecture. Found commonly in domestic architecture, those wooden latticework screens protected from the sun and offered privacy. Here the concept of mashrabiya is transformed using aluminium, steel and coloured lighting. I would not call this Islamic art, but there are links to the artist’s cultural heritage in the works on display. The traditional urban landscapes of the artist’s homeland, especially the winding narrow alleys, were the inspiration behind the Grid Maze[1]

The Mobile Columns look very industrial, but the shadows they cast form geometric patterns similar to those found in traditional Islamic woodwork and ceramics. In the Parametric Sculptures light and shade effects are achieved without any openwork. Those curved panes of metal in different colours are close to the abstraction of the Colour Field painting. Khalifa began his artistic career as a painter, from landscapes he moved towards abstract painting and, more recently, kinetic sculpture. [2]

Rashid Khalifa Mobile Columns (2018 enamel on steel bars) view from the exhibition Penumbra, photo: Ground Impressions


Rashid Khalifa Parametric Sculpture (2018 matte enamel on aluminium) view from the exhibition Penumbra, photo: Ground Impressions

There is no guarantee that you will experience a spiritual journey or become one with the artworks.  However, the exhibition is well worth a visit, as it offers a memorable aesthetic experience. Penumbra is undoubtedly ‘selfie-friendly’ and ‘instagrammable’, but the photographs do not look even half as impressive as the real thing in my opinion. One of the most visually striking contemporary art exhibitions I have seen recently.

Penumbra: textured shadow, coloured light’ by Rashid Khalifa is free and runs 3-21 October 2018 at Saatchi Gallery, London


[1] https://rashidalkhalifa.me/exhibitions/27/overview/

[2] https://rashidalkhalifa.me/bio/transformandinnovate/

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