LONDON AND ABU DHABI // A unique work of art, commissioned to mark the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, was unveiled in London last night. With the help of 20 Formula One drivers, including the world champion Lewis Hamilton and all the contenders for his crown this year, the artist Mark Dickens has created 10 mixed-media collages that capture not only the thrills of the grand prix circuit but also some of the iconic images of Abu Dhabi.
On each panel, two drivers have handwritten lines, originally in English and reproduced in Arabic, from Rudyard Kipling's poem If. "It's been a tremendously exciting undertaking," said Dickens, 46. "A lot of my work involves collaboration with songwriters and poets, but I think this is the first time anyone has got Formula One drivers involved in such a project. "Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management [ADMM] have been involved from the beginning and I shaped the commission with them.
"I had long wanted to do a work around Kipling's If because it's a poem about winning and losing. The fine margins involved seemed so relevant to motor racing." Dickens spent eight months working on the 80cm-square panels, each featuring a variety of materials, from paint and fabric to gold leaf and photographs of the drivers taken by the artist. Among the drivers featured in the Abu Dhabi Series is the current championship leader, Jenson Button, his teammate and title rival, Rubens Barrichello, and the former world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
"Ferrari and Renault were fantastically helpful in getting me access to the tracks and I was surprised how much the drivers took to the project," said Dickens. "It was something I don't think they'd ever been asked to do before. "I chose the lines they were to write from the poem completely at random yet, strangely, many of them seemed very apt for the drivers themselves. "Even their handwriting seemed to reflect their characteristics as drivers. Some were bold and confident, some were timid and cautious.
"But the best was Nico Rosberg. He's known to spin off the track sometimes and, when he went to write his line, he went off the edge of the paper. It was brilliant." Towards the end of last year, Dickens suggested the idea of the collage to Waterhouse & Dodd, his gallery in London. A two-hour preview was held there last night before the work is moved to the Yas Marina Circuit. The gallery received an enthusiastic reception when it put the proposal to ADMM and also won the endorsement of Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 chief, who attended yesterday's preview.
Ray Waterhouse, from Waterhouse & Dodd, said: "There has been a phenomenal response from all the teams and drivers who have collaborated on this exciting project. "This is a unique exchange between the world of motorsport and the arts, and demonstrates the amazing mix of business and culture in Abu Dhabi." In addition to featuring the drivers and the Yas Marina Circuit, where the first Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be held on November 1, the collages also include imagery of local landmarks, including the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Emirates Palace hotel and the Al Hosn Palace.
Following Wednesday's resignation of Flavio Briatore as principal of the Renault F1 team, after Nelson Piquet Jr said he had been told to deliberately crash in Singapore last season to enable teammate Fernando Alonso to win the race, the lines that Piquet wrote seem particularly appropriate: If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools For his part, Alonso wrote:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same Dickens, a frequent visitor to the UAE, is to have a one-man exhibition during the Abu Dhabi Arts Fair at the end of November. He travelled the world to gather material for his F1 artwork and described the venture "as one of the most exciting I've ever undertaken". It was not all plain sailing, though. His original plan for 10 panels was reduced to nine at one stage when Honda pulled out of F1, only for Brawn to step into the void. Then, when new drivers came on the scene, he found himself flying to Turkey and Valencia to get fresh photographs.
"It has been a lot of work, but I hope people will consider the end result worth it," he said. Richard Cregan, chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit and ADMM, said the pictures were a "very successful" fusion of art and sport. It was particularly appropriate that they had been produced for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he said, because the UAE capital was positioning itself as a cultural hub as well as a sporting centre.
"This is something that's about the cultural heritage and where this heritage is moving, and the tie-up between art and what we're trying to achieve," Mr Cregan said. "We've had great co-operation from Mark in keeping us informed. Even though he is the artist, we've felt we've been integrated and it's been an exciting process." Mr Cregan said the panels he had seen so far were "fantastic" and predicted that the final montage would "create a huge impact".
During the Grand Prix weekend, it will be unveiled in its permanent home, a lobby area at the ADMM headquarters at the circuit. * The National