Giant mining sculpture returns to Cardiff after nearly 50 years

After 48 years a huge steel sculpture of a mining hammer has returned to Cardiff. The untitled sculpture will loom over local shoppers on The Hayes with its dark, geometric presence for the next six months.

It’s quite amazing, and confusing, because the sculpture’s the same and everything else is different,” marvelled Garth Evans, a contemporary sculptor who created the piece.

In 1972, the striking sculpture was one of 16 new works put on display in eight cities as part of a UK-wide public art project.

Following a crowdfunding campaign by the Chapter Arts Centre, the structure has been restored and returned to its original site in the city.

It was amazing to see it come back after so long,” exclaimed Hannah Firth, the co-ordinator of the Chapter Arts Centre project.

More than £17,000 was raised to restore the sculpture, which had originally been displayed in Cardiff for only six months. It was then moved straight into storage in Leicestershire where it remained ever since.

It was in a pretty poor condition when we found it,” said Firth, “we think someone had taken a hammer to it – and then it had also been painted green when, of course, it was supposed to be as black as the coal that inspired it.”

Evans’s piece had been deeply influenced by Wales’ rich mining heritage. He designed the 40-foot-long sculpture to evoke both a hammer-like tool and the image of a mine tunnel blackened by coal.

My mother grew up in the small mining village of Pencoed and my grandfather and my mother’s brothers were coal miners in the region,” explained Evans, “I vividly remember listening to my uncles and other men talk of their lives underground, in the dark.”

Whilst installing the powerful artwork for the first time, Evans also anonymously recorded the reactions of local people. Their opinions, ranging from positive to outright critical, formed the basis of a play that went on to be performed in New York.

Recording the responses of people to the work was just to give me information really, but that recording took on a life of its own!” recalled Evans.

Evans’ sculpture will be on public display on The Hayes from 24 September 2019 to March 2020. Chapter Arts Centre also intend to restage the 1972 play, entitled The Cardiff Tapes.

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