MICHELANGELO, PING-PONG, AMBITION, SIBELIUS, AND GIRLS…
The line is taken from a Dylan Thomas radio broadcast ‘Return Journey to Swansea‘. In the broadcast, Thomas tells of his return to Swansea in search of his former self, growing up in the town. We find him at one stage in the Kardomah Café with his friends, putting the world to rights. They talk about ‘music and poetry and painting and politics‘. They talk about ‘communism, symbolism, Bradman and Braque‘. They talk about ‘Michelangelo, ping-pong, ambition, Sibelius, and girls…‘
Roberts, who is originally from Sketty in Swansea, explains ‘The work celebrates Thomas’ humour, something all too often overlooked in work that commemorates him. The use of neon is a sly reference to the bright lights that so attracted him. It’s a great sounding line, and of particular relevance in today’s digital age, when we are bombarded with disparate information and imagery, ranging from the trivial to the profound. It is a line that will intrigue, always a good thing in a work of public art, and by positioning it on the Kardomah a piece of text from ‘Return Journey’ is enabled to return to the place that inspired it.’
The Kardomah Gang or The Kardomah Boys as they were known was a group of artists, musicians, poets and writers – who, in the 1930s, frequented the Kardomah Café in Castle Street, Swansea, Wales. Regulars included Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins and artists such as Alfred Janes. Swansea was heavily bombed in 1941 and Castle Street was just one of the many streets in Swansea that suffered badly. After the bombing, Dylan Thomas came back to visit Swansea. He later he wrote about the devastation in his radio play entitled Return Journey to Swansea. In the play, he describes the café as being “Razed to the snow”. The Kardomah Café reopened after the war in a new location in Portland Street, a short walk from where the original stood.
Roberts: ‘I knew the site of the Kardomah had changed since Dylan’s day but the important thing was the name – Kardomah – my ‘Home Sweet Homah’ as Dylan put it in a letter to his friend Charles Fisher. Juliet and Marcus Luporini, who own the Kardomah were highly supportive as was local aficionado, Jeff Towns. Dylan was a terrific humorist as well as a magical lyricist, and I hope the installation makes this point as strongly as possible.’
Owner Marcus Luporini, whose parents Pietro and Cathy ran the café before him, said: “People love the fact that the cafe hasn’t changed since they first started coming 30 or 40 years ago. We know our customers and there is a lot of banter. It is like one big family.”
Launched to coincide with the Dylan Thomas Festival and the centenary of his birth, it is one of many works commissioned for the Dylan Thomas Centenary. Locws commissioned six artists and writers earlier in 2014 including Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller‘s More Poetry Is Needed. Commissioned by Locws International, the text will be made and installed by NeonNeon who have previously worked with include Mona Hatoum, Cerith Wyn Evans and Tracy Emin. They have just installed another DJ Roberts neon, I’m In Love With The Modern World, above a 99p Store in Walthamstow High Street, London.