Spanish tattoo artist and muralist Javier Robledo aka Xav was recently invited to paint for the ongoing mural project ArtUnitedUs in Kiev, Ukraine. A project that has seen names like Fintan Magee, Rustam Qbic, Guido van Helten and Jake Aikman just to mention a few of some of the greatest walls painted during the past year.

With its 70 meters high and 15 meters wide, the new mural is Xav’s tallest mural to date, widely surpassing previous work in Murcia, Gijón and Jerez in Spain. This is also the first mural Xav has painted outside his home country so when he got the invitation to participate in this amazing project, he really didn’t doubt a second.
According to the artist, he didn’t realise the magnitude of the project until he arrived in Kiev and saw the wall. A huge 20 story building seemed somehow frightening, but also like an amazing challenge. The mural had to be painted in two stages due the length of the lift. This means that the lift had to be installed on one half of the wall at the time. In addition to this, the surface of the wall wasn’t totally flat, he experienced some rainy and windy days and on top of that some neighbours weren’t totally happy about the subject of his mural, a black boy.

“Most of the neighbours liked it, but some people protested because the boy was black. I was very surprised, because I had not foreseen a possible racist reaction to my work, but I prefer to stay with the majority of neighbours if they liked.”

Being Ukraine a country in conflict Xav wanted to paint the image of a cute and smiling boy. According to him “the work was devoted to the ability to enjoy simple things, the desire to see a half full glass, and not half empty, that even having nothing, you can still have everything …” Unfortunately, some of the neighbours didn’t see it that way. The wall was only about 40% finished, when Xav’s work was stopped. The reason? Well, that a high-ranking and politically incorrect tenant living in the building (the former deputy head of the National Police, Grigory Manka) who didn’t like the painting. In his own words: “I do not want to see a monkey on the house, I do not need this nigrotosik (niger).” 

Xav eventually completed the mural successfully despite the negativity expressed against his wall, but the issue of racism (or rather ignorance) is still very fresh in the memory of the artist and the organisers.

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © Iryna Kanishcheva

Photo © dronarium

Photo © dronarium

About the project

Art United Us is an international project that collaborates through artistic and creative mediums with communities to raise public awareness and attention to the problem of war, aggression and violence. The project started in Kiev, Ukraine in the beginning of the year, is planning to complete 200 walls during the next 2 years through out the world and without boundaries. Art United Us is curated by Geo Leros and Iryna Kanishcheva.

ArtUnitedUs on website | facebook | urbanite

Author: Fran

Founder and editor of Urbanite. Street Art lover who after the finishing her MA thesis on the muralist movement in the 1920-50s, developed a fascination for street art and graffiti that eventually led to collaborations with different art blogs, including the creation of this one.