I have recently returned from Dubai, completing a mural for an art gallery and artist resource centre called Tashkeel. It was a huge mural, around 250 metres long, and took 10 days to complete. With my team of UK-based artists that travelled with me, the well known graffiti artist Dreph, and my good friend Janade, the three of us embarked upon creating this mammoth mural. I’ve never painting in the burning heat before, only Australia was comparable – however i was under the shade of two skycrapers there, so i didn’t feel the heat at all.
I learnt something new, of how Montana spraycans react to extreme heat. Whilst spraying, a can exploded in my hand with a loud bang. Its not dangerous, but please be warned do not leave your spraycans out in the sun!
The mural was supported by around 5 local artists from the centre, who played in invaluable role in helping me make the mural relevant to the people there. For me this is essential. I am parachuted into so many different places to paint, so i always like to make a connection with the local people and involve them whichever way I can, so it becomes their wall, their message.
The theme, was the past and the future, and the importance of heritage and ones culture. With the changing face of Dubai and the UAE in general, from a desert landscape to a modern metropolis, the theme captured this essence. Using various quotes and words of wisdom from the rulers of Dubai from Sheikh Zayed to Sheikh Mohammed, a collage of this was created against a backdrop of blue skies and green forests. It was exciting to collaborate with one of the countries best calligraphers, Wissam Shaukat, who wrote out some of our words in his distinct and beautiful calligraphic styles. Graffiti art and classical calligraphy, bought together from two contrasting artists, two different worlds, this for me was exciting.
The walls were set in the beautiful green gardens of Tashkeel Gallery, based in in Nad Al Sheba, a retreat away from the chaos of Dubai. What excited me most about these walls, was the beautiful Nad Al Sheeba mosque sitting just beyond the walls. A grand mosque set against the colourful graffiti-covered walls – this was something unique.
The founder of Tashkeel is Lateefa Bint Maktoum, an amazing person and a great artist, who made this mural become a reality. She is revolutionising the art scene in the UAE, and her centre’s resources are like nothing i have ever seen. I had everything available to me while i was painting, from laser cutters, to photographic equipment, whatever i needed i just needed to turn around and it was there! If only all of my mural projects were like this!
During the entire ten days, we had school visits from around Dubai, Rashid School for Boys, Gems World Academy, Dubai British School, Indian High School, German School…. a real mix of all kids of students!
I have exhibited in Dubai 5 years ago courtesy of sponsors HSBC Amanah and the Arts Council England. A great experience, but at that time, the art scene was dead, we had trouble even finding a suitable arts venue. Things have changed and I believe Tashkeel will go down in history for its contribution to the art scene of the UAE.
Here are the official pictures from the mural, as well as the 3 day mini-project i was involved with at the Art Dubai festival. These pictures were taken by my favourite photographer, Saleem of Salshan Photography, who also travelled out to Dubai from the UK to cover the project. See the pictures by clicking the links below…