Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?
I was born in 1934 and I have been a sculptor my entire adult life. I have used a wide variety of materials and processes. My studies were traditional figure modelling and, although most of my work has been abstract, it has generally been informed by that early intense engagement with the human form.
What was the original inspiration behind this sculpture?
My mother grew up in the small mining village of Pencoed and my grandfather and four or five of my mother’s brothers were coal miners in the region. As a child, I spent summers in South Wales and I vividly remember listening to my uncles and other men talk of their lives underground, in the dark – stories of accidents and escapes, of disasters and loss and of the long bitter strikes. I wanted to make something that I felt had a connection to the coal mining and steel making industries of South Wales. In particular I thought of it as some sort of commemorative work, perhaps even a memorial to those who lost their lives or were injured in the mines. I wanted to find a very graspable form that would have the presence of something functional, like a tool, a hammer say. It was also important that the work could withstand abuse – during the original installation it was covered in graffiti.
What damage has the work endured and what restoration will need to be undertaken?
At some point, a long time ago, the work was repainted. This paint has either faded dramatically or, more probably, was the wrong colour. The original black is now a greenish grey. More serious damage has resulted from the absence of regular maintenance, ie cleaning and periodic repainting; as a consequence of this neglect the work has begun to rust. The restoration requires that the paint be removed and the work be stripped back to the bare metal. It will then be possible to remove any rust and ensure that it is once again water tight. It can then be primed and returned to its intended colour.
Why is it important to you that the work is returned to Wales?
This is the only work that I have made for a specific place, the Hayes in Cardiff. It is the only work that I have ever made for an outdoor setting. I was very happy with the work in that I felt it had exactly the sort of presence I wanted. It was challenging and bold but not brash or imposing. For all that it was/is not something that one could identify, it felt as though it had the potential to become familiar. I want it back in a place where the general public in South Wales will interact with it on a daily basis in the belief that it will come to be regarded as symbolic of the strength, courage and unity of the men and women in the valleys who worked in the mines and in the steel mills there.
Why did you decide to anonymously record the comments of passers-by when the sculpture was originally installed, and how do you expect reactions to differ when you gather comments again in 2019?
I wanted to see if the work would provoke in other people, associations similar to those that the work had for me. I expect that the language of minimal sculpture that the work employs will not be as unfamiliar in 2019 as it was in 1972. I like to think that if, in 1972, the work had been able to remain in the Hayes until it ceased to be completely alien, a few years say, it would have come to have meaning and value for those familiar with it.