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Art & Culture

Bahraini artists showcase their talent at London’s V&A

Noof Alrefaei — A Bicycle Bench.
Faika Al Hassan’s artwork.
Amina Alabassi — Rebirth II.
Nabeela Al Khayer.
Mayasa Al Sowaidi — Untitled.
Sumaya Abdulghani — Threads of Knowledge.
Lulwa Al-Khalifa — Blue Psychedelia.
Amina Alabassi.
A painting by Omar Al Rashid.
Hamed Al Bosta.
Marwa Al Khalifa’s painting.
An artwork by Jamal Abdul Rahim.
Taiba Faraj —Dancing Letters.
Miriam Fakhro — A Beautiful Time.
Taiba Faraj.
An artwork by Ghassan Muhsin.
Bahraini artists brought a striking range of images to the Victoria & Albert Museum for the launch of Bahrain Art Across Borders’ (BAABs’) inaugural international exhibition held in association with Art Select and Tamkeen.
The exhibition was held under the patronage of Bahrain’s Ambassador for the United Kingdom Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa. Speaking at the event, the Ambassador said: “It is truly fitting that this 2016 exhibition should take place in the United Kingdom as our two countries celebrate two centuries of friendship and cooperation. Over the decades, this historic relationship has proved its value and we can look with confidence at the future of our bilateral friendship.
“Indeed, I am convinced that art is an area of tremendous potential for those ties, bringing our countries still closer, deepening our mutual understanding and expanding our horizons through a shared appreciation of art’s depth and beauty.
“I am pleased and excited that so many talented Bahraini artists are part of this exhibition, including established artists and relative newcomers — representing such a diverse range of styles and materials.
“This is a good opportunity, especially for our young artists, to mingle with the crowd here and gain experience — and maybe sell a few!”
Guest of Honor at the launch was the Rt Hon John Whittingdale, MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who said: “I love art and in my job I get the opportunity to go to lots of exhibitions. Bahrain clearly has a lot of talent.”
“I believe very strongly in cultural exchange. We have a very good friendship and strong ties with Bahrain as it is — and this exhibition will strengthen that further.
“In other countries, where we perhaps have political differences, maintaining cultural dialogue is also very important. Giving people the opportunity to see examples of culture from another country helps to build understanding and friendships and closer links. We do a lot of work through the British Council in taking our British culture overseas, and it is great to see Bahrain having this opportunity in London.”
Tamkeen’s Chief Executive Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, stated: “Art and Culture form the cornerstone of any country’s identity and heritage. It also plays a key role in driving forward economic activity, especially as it is one of the primary gateways for anyone who deals with a country. It not only plays a key role in encouraging tourism, but also assists in enhancing a country’s visibility and reach to a wider global audience. As such, Tamkeen, which is a semi-government organization that seeks to contribute toward making Bahrain’s private sector the key driver of economic growth, is proud to be supporting this initiative which provides a group of hard-working, talented artists, who demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to grow and develop, to reach markets beyond Bahrain and showcase their unique art collections to a multinational audience.”
The seventeen artists selected for the exhibition include Amina Al-Abbasi, Balqees Fakhro, Ebrahim BuSaad, Faika Al-Hassan, Ghada Khunji, Ghassan Muhsin, Hamed Al-Bosta, Jamal Abdul Rahim, Lulwa Al-Khalifa, Marwa Al-Khalifa, Nabeela Al-Khayer, Noof Alrefaei, Omar Al-Rashid, Taiba Faraj, Sumaya Abdulghani, Mayasa Al-Sowaidi and Mariam Fakhro.
The selected artists responded to an open call to ensure equal opportunity for all in the competition. Their brief was to present work that showed their connection to Bahrain.
Janet Rady, one of the independent judges who selected the pieces for the exhibition, was delighted with the enthusiastic response to the range of work on display. “It’s been an amazing turnout — and the V&A is a wonderful setting — the works look wonderful,” she said.
The artists engaged in a full program of cultural activities during their stay in London including visits to prominent galleries, museums and art centers such as the Barbican Art Center and Tate Modern. There were also behind-the-scene tours of reputed auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s and a public panel discussion on Art and Globalization at the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, chaired by international industry experts with BAAB’s Ghada Kunji, Jamal A Rahim and Ghassan Muhsen as guest speakers.
Artist, Mayasa Al Sowaidi , who was showcasing thirteen artworks in the exhibition, has recently made art her full time occupation. What started out as a hobby has turned into something much more, she explained: “I have been practicing art for the past twelve years. I majored in mathematics and I am doing my PhD now in emotional intelligence in France. Maths has rules which are very strictly applied so I go to art to relieve my emotions — to relax and feel free. I didn’t know that art would become my profession as it started as just a hobby.”
Jamal Abdul Rahim’s pieces, displaying his diverse range of talents, included both beautiful prints and bronze sculptures. He spoke about how he approaches his work: “For my prints, in order to ensure their rarity and exclusivity, I do only one or two copies and then I destroy the plate.
“I love to play, and for me art is a kind of playing. Once you understand the basics, when you apply your attention and time to a stone or a print plate you can create good art. It is important to study, read widely and immerse yourself in culture; with this foundation you can then find your own way.
“Every day I work in my studio for hours and hours — up to ten hours. Today, I am running one of the biggest workshops for print making in the Gulf region.”
He gave some insights into how he goes about creating sculptures of animals, including the wonderful images of a cat and bull included in the exhibition, and the very different experience of working with stone and bronze.
“I do not try to copy the animal directly — instead I imagine the animal to create my vision of its form and character. I prefer working with stone because when you are sculpting stone it is as though the stone speaks to you to release the beautiful image it has within it. With bronze — it is different — it is not like the conversation you have with stone — instead you must impose your idea to create the image.
“So I rarely work with bronze — but in this exhibition I am showing my bronzes because they are easier to transport than my heavy stone sculptures,” he said.
Kaneka Subberwal, CEO and founder of Art Select (a brand of Art and Spice), commented, “Bahrain is renowned for its rich history, culture and heritage and this is further manifested in its creative talent. BAAB London is an ideal platform for our Bahraini artists to showcase their vision to a global audience and link them to art collectors and enthusiasts from across the word. The high-profile venues we have secured ensure this objective is fulfilled. We are very pleased with what we have achieved so far through the BAAB initiative with the support of our partners Tamkeen; it is a proud moment for us to be showcasing this side of Bahrain to the world, especially with a display of such a worthy collection.
The exposure that the BAAB initiative offers artists is instrumental in stimulating activity in the local arts scene and further position the country as a prime center for art investment on the world map.”
The BAAB London 2016 exhibition transferred from the V&A to Gallery 8, a newly refurbished gallery space housing prominent art talent situated in central London.

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