Born and educated in Pakistan, Araeen trained as an engineer before moving to Europe in the 1960s to become one of the pioneers of minimalist sculpture in Britain. However, he received no institutional recognition for his contribution to the modernist discourse in this country, being side-lined as a non-European whose work was consistently evaluated within the context of post-colonial structures.
As a result of this, in the 1970s and 1980s his work - in performance, photography, painting and sculpture - began to develop an overtly political content which drew attention to the way in which black artists were invisible within the dominant Eurocentric culture.
Geometric structures in which vertical and horizontal lines are held together by a network of diagonals (like the bracing struts used to strengthen latticed engineering constructions) play on the links between Eastern and Western thought and the frameworks of social institutions and aesthetics. Photographs overlaid by or held within these geometric structures, bring in the personal and psychological and relate the human individual to the social structure in which s/he exists.
Through his activities as a publisher, writer, and artist he is one of the pivotal figures in establishing a black voice in the British arts. Araeen has published numerous journals and articles, some of the most notable being; 'Black Phoenix', published in 1978, which was followed by the hugely influential 'Third Text' in 1987 and 'Third Text Asia' in 2008. He also founded Kala Press in association with Third Text to disseminate information on neglected African and Asian artists in Britain who contributed to the development of post-war British art.
In 1989 Araeen curated the exhibition 'The Other Story, Afro-Asian artists in post-war Britain' at the South Bank Centre. This was the first major retrospective of work by Asian and African artists in Britain, all of whom had contributed greatly to the artistic scene since the 1950s, without ever being formerly accepted as part of the establishment.
Rasheed has exhibited widely with his most recent exhibition being his retrospective show, Rasheed Araeen: A Retrospective, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2018) which later travelled to MAMCO, Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland (2018), BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom (2018-19) and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2019).
His works have been included in important private and public collections across the world namely The Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Tate Gallery, London, UK; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; amongst others.
Rasheed lives and works in London, United Kingdom.