Making cultural creations: Gulf Weekly Online

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By Naman Arora

Multifaceted designer and artist Rashed Al Araifi launched his first solo exhibition last night at the Art Center, featuring a body of work inspired by observations over the past two years.

Rashed won second place at the Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition (BAFA) in 2020 and in recognition his Visual Memoirs exhibition is now on display, examining urban behavior, social practices and cultural customs.

“The exhibition and its 63 pieces are a visual journey through my memories, starting with easily discernible figuration, then becoming more obscure until we come to pure abstract thought,” Rashed told GulfWeekly.

“When you go to the show, you start out seeing easily identifiable things, like the sea and the palm trees, and as you move around, the artwork slowly becomes more and more abstract, and you’ll have to maybe spend time, time to really look at an image, before you can identify it.

“But every detail, every aspect of every piece is intentional.”

Rashed has earned a reputation for his attention to detail as an artist. His article at BAFA 2020, titled Cultured Culture, shed light on the struggle between traditional pearl diving and modern cultured pearls during a match between two football teams on a foosball table.

Constructed of solid teak wood similar to that used in dhows and diving vessels, it has paddle-like handles and curved figures meant to represent pearl divers, while the lab crew is driven by the culture of scientific equipment enclosed in handles and box cutter figurines, to represent the manufactured nature of the process.

The wooden “ball” between the teams has a cutout showing a single natural pearl.

This piece now rests in a royal residence in the kingdom.

Rashed’s two new objects continue this attention to detail. Welcoming visitors as they embark on a journey through the exhibit is a solid teak door artwork with 24k gold plated hardware called Distorted Memory.

“The piece acts as a visual storytelling that echoes a disintegrated memory of indigenous and vernacular architecture, positioned between the spectrum of time and space,” Rashed explained.

“Hand-finished in solid teak wood, the traditional door is a symbol that intends to showcase and examine local craftsmanship, warped between its almost uncertain and weathered heritage.”

Right in the middle of the exhibition, between figuration and abstraction, is a wooden chest, similar to the one found in many Arab houses.

The beauty of the object, called Blinding Heights, lies both in the process and in the final piece.

According to Rashed, the handcrafted piece metaphorically critiques the legacy and efforts of local artisans and their future.

“The playfully placed miniature builders, each of which has been individually designed and 3D printed, can be seen working on the site, juxtaposed against the chest’s 8,000 coated brass nails,” he added.

“They symbolize a comparison between a construction workforce and a skilled craftsman, whose heritage and craft have been passed down from generation to generation into an uncertain future.”

Additionally, among the myriad pieces on display are sketches from Rashed’s two-handed drawing series – ambidexterity being a skill the 29-year-old artist discovered and developed during the pandemic.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic itself has not been an inspiration for his work over the past two years, he has found more time to explore his mind and skills creatively.

Many pieces are symphonies made by his logical left brain and his creative right brain working together – a melody of his profession and his passion.

An architect by profession and co-founder of a multidisciplinary design practice in the kingdom, Rashed studied interior and spatial design at the University of the Arts London and earned an MA in Architecture from the University of Creative Arts. .

He has exhibited his work in exhibitions around the world, including the London Design Festival and the Seef branch of the National Bank of Bahrain, showcasing the structures of the Bahraini archipelago using flowing lines.

The “Visual Memories: Between Figuration and Abstraction” take place until March 29, every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Art Center near the National Museum.

Check out Rashed @rashedalaraifi’s latest pieces on Instagram.

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