How did the commission come about?
ST: Just before my exhibition at Open Eye Gallery as part of the Liverpool Biennial this year, I was approached by Gordon Dalton (Project Manager for Locws International) who was interested in commissioning my work for the 2013 programme for Art Across the City. It was peculiar synchronicity because only a few days before, I had read about them in AN Newsletter. I am a big fan of their commissioned artists including David Blandy, Bedwyr Williams and collaborative duo Joanne Tatham & Tom O’ Sullivan. At a time of global recession and drastic budget cuts (especially in the arts), it’s wonderful how Swansea are really taking the plunge – investing in the town’s regeneration and future legacy.
How did you approach the local context and site?
As with many public art commissions, there’s a timeframe in which to actively engage in research. Previously, the only facts I knew about Swansea were Dylan Thomas and beaches. When visiting Swansea I was struck by the cultural diversity as seen on St. Helen’s Road. Walking past you’ll see Welsh next to Ethiopian, next to Chinese, next to an Indian, next to Italian – and coming from Bali, I was particularly drawn to the unexpected presence of an little Indonesian restaurant called ‘Garuda‘. Although I am very used to towns and cities dividing themselves into cultural neighbourhoods such as ‘China Town’ or ‘Little India’, I have never seen such a crazy cultural mish-mash on such a small stretch of road. I wanted to create a piece of work that reflected this experience and challenged the stereotypes of Swansea – injecting a sense of ‘exotica’ into the fabric of the town itself.
Can you talk about the title of the work?
“A Greater Reality of Elsewhere” is taken from a quote from Truman Capote’s Travel Sketch of New York City. I enjoy Capote’s sharp style of writing which lies somewhere in-between story telling and journalistic reportage. For me, the title symbolises the activity of day dreaming whether this be in New York City or elsewhere. Yet the word ‘reality’ also suggests danger – too much dreaming causes boundaries to blur and self control to be lost. As an artist I am intrigued by the ‘fantasy / fiction’ duality – especially in the context of pop culture and the world of art. ‘Romantic truth’, as seen in the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, has been replaced by the ‘genuine fake’ of Andy Warhol – and it is this sense of ‘hyperreality’ that I wanted to bring into my work in Swansea.
What does the palm tree symbolise?