ABU DHABI // The chief artist behind a 600-metre mural in Abu Dhabi tapped into the UAE’s history, culture, and the words of Sheikh Zayed for inspiration to create one of the largest pieces of art in the country.
On Wednesday, Miami-based artist Elio Mercado, 32, and his team of artists were applying the final touches of paint to their “canvas” – a wall that runs parallel to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street, close to the headquarters of real estate developer Aldar.
To complete the mural, which is as long as six football pitches, Mercado was joined by an international collective of artists including Peruvians Daniel Cortez, Jade Rivera and Entes Suero, Iriving Cano from Mexico, Marcos Temoches from Venezuela and Onur Dinc from Switzerland.
During the past month they have been painting a series of images and symbols representative of the UAE, which together form the largest mural they have yet created.
“The guideline was pretty much to capture the essence of the culture,” said Mercado, who also goes by the moniker Evoca1.
Faced with the task of creating a work that will be seen by thousands of passersby every day, his creative process began by gathering ideas from UAE-based photographers Wouter Kingma, Chinthra Unni and Jassim Al Buainain and studying their images.
The result was a series of paintings that include impressions of falcons, camels and citizens partaking in cultural activities.
One such image is of a boy in traditional dress holding a lantern.
Mercado said he was inspired for this image by a quote from the Founding President, Sheikh Zayed, “Education is like a lantern that lights up your way in a dark alley”.
Mercado said: “I was happy to take that quote and turn it into a piece of the mural.”
The team of artists worked from 6.30am to 9.30am, followed by another shift from 4pm to 10pm.
Because of the hot weather, they had to dampen the wall before they could apply paint with their brushes and rollers.
“I’ve worked in the desert heat before in Tunisia, it was hot, but this was definitely the hottest,” Mercado said. “It was super uncomfortable, we couldn’t breathe at some points but we just managed.”
An exterior latex paint, specially made for desert climates and to withstand dust and heat was used.
The mural is part of a pilot project by Aldar, which has set out to embed UAE culture and heritage in its development work.
Similar projects are expected to follow.
“It’s a perfect way to engage with a crowd that’s not used to seeing art,” Mercado said.
“When you walk into a gallery, people will already have a sense of what they’re looking at or what they’re looking for. When you do something like a mural, you get to engage with fresh eyes, someone in the public who’s just walking by and maybe not used to being exposed to artwork.”
“It’s a good way to send a positive message to people.”
The project was completed under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.