Monday, 15 October 2018

Kardomah Cafe in The Daily Telegraph

In The Daily Telegraph last month (Saturday, September 15th) there was a splendid feature on cafes entitled 'Take your seat at a window onto the world'. In it the author, Chris Moss, listed his 50 favourite international cafes. One of them was the Kardomah in Swansea.

I was delighted by this. I come from Swansea, I have had many a good chat and cup of coffee in the Kardomah, and I can vouch for the fact that it is great value and great fun. In fact,  back in 2014,  the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, I proposed a neon artwork celebrating Dylan and the Kardomah, to be mounted on the cafe's facade, and I was delighted when Locws International commissioned it as a permanent installation, part of their 'Art Across the City' programme.

As Chris Moss writes in his article, the current cafe 'is not the original Swansea Kardomah - Hitler put paid to that in 1941 - but it feels and looks like it'. And the name Kardomah will always be associated with Dylan. As a young man he used to meet there with his friends, putting the world to rights, and in his radio broadcast Return Journey he describes, with great humour, everything they used to talk about - 'music and poetry and painting and politics', 'communism, symbolism, Bradman, Braque', and (the best line of all, and the one I used for the neon) 'Michelangelo, ping-pong, ambition, Sibelius and girls ...'

Swansea has become quite a centre for cultural excellence - the Swansea International Festival 2018 has just ended - and this autumn, between 27th October and 4th November, there will be a number of further exhibitions and events taking place in the city. Among them will be a guided tour of the Swansea Dylan knew. Find out more about what's going on from Swansea's Dylan Thomas Centre ( - and make sure you have a coffee in the Kardomah!

Intensity at The House of St Barnabas, October 2018

A group show is coming up in which I am very proud to be taking part; I shall write about it at greater length after it opens on Friday October 26th.

The show, 'Intensity', has been curated by Paul Carey-Kent, and its inspiration is a book, 'La Vie des Plantes (2016), by the Italian philosopher Emmanuele Coccia. In the book Coccia argues that plants deserve more recognition, philosophically and environmentally, than they have historically received, and the six artists in the show have all made works which refer, directly or indirectly, to the botanic.

The show is at The House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek St, Soho Square, London W1D 4NQ ( It will be open to the public from October 27th to March 31st 2019.  The other artists taking part are Eric Butcher, Kristian Evju, Marie Harnett, Katherine Murphy and Giulia Ricci. Watch this space - more will be revealed in due course.

RCA Secret 2018

I'm  delighted to say that once again I shall be taking part in Stewarts RCA Secret this November and December.

Do come along to the exhibition - what it aims to do is so worthwhile. Thousands of original postcard-sized artworks will be on show, priced at £60 each, and all proceeds from sales will go to support student experience at the Royal College of Art. The money raised directly helps to make a difference to students at a formative time in their careers - its a really great initiative.

For full information about the exhibition go to For  travel information go to

Thursday, 22 March 2018

London Art Fair

Following on from the recent blog below, here are two general shots of the CANAL stand at last month's London Art Fair. The top photograph is by Maguelone Marcenac, the bottom one by David Owens. Many thanks to them both. I should say that the earlier, documentary photograph of the neon, showed in the February 12th blog, was taken by Charlie Milligan, who had to stand on a very wobbly stepladder in a blacked-out workshop to get a result. I'm grateful to all three photographers. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

London Art Fair

Beyond the bright cartoons - D J Roberts
16 x 215 cm

Sand, pigment, wool thread, Vivanil glue on board
71 x 101cm
c. 1977
A tardy entry - I've been very busy of late - but I do want to say how much I enjoyed showing with CANAL at the London Art Fair last month.

Together with James Brooks and Patrick White I was invited by Monika Bobinska, who runs CANAL and who was showing in the Art Projects section of the fair, to respond to the work of the late Claudio del Sole. Del Sole (1926 - 2005) was an Italian artist and astronomer who in 1959 helped found the movement Astralism and whose practice explored his fascination with the depth, light and mystery of the cosmos. CANAL's show 'L'Osservatorio' (The Observatory) included six of his works.

My response to one of them, Campi Rotanti, a painting he made in 1977, was a neon text which read 'Beyond the bright cartoons'. This is the first line of Philip Larkin's short star-gazing poem 'Far Out', written in 1959 and addressing, like del Sole's art, the nature of our relationship with the universe. For me the poem is very much about grappling with concepts that are difficult - they can offer great rewards if rigorously explored. The line can also be read as a metaphor for avoiding facility in art. I think del Sole would have endorsed both these propositions.

The neon was an exact replica, enlarged, of Larkin's handwritten version of the line. This was possible due to the kindness of Simon Wilson, University Archivist at Hull History Centre, who allowed me to see the line in one of Larkin's notebooks and to copy it. 

The critic Paul Carey-Kent rated 'L'Osservatorio' probably the best curated stand at the fair, while Dr Christopher Adams of the Estorick Collection wrote: 'With the ongoing revival of interest in post-war Italian art, this exhibition is a timely celebration of a figure whose work constituted a sophisticated, accomplished and highly distinctive response to some of the most significant artistic and scientific developments of his day'.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Death-Cap Dancers

One of the books of display at my show 'Larkinworld' at the National Poetry Library in London is 'The Death-Cap Dancers', by Gladys Mitchell. It was kindly lent to me for the show by Laurence Worms of Ash Rare Books (

The book once belonged to Barry Bloomfield, Larkin's friend and bibliographer. Laurence bought a great many books owned by Bloomfield, and writes:

'Both Barry and Larkin shared an enthusiasm for old-fashioned detective fiction - Margery Allinghan, Francis Beeding, Josephine Bell, Christiana Brand, Freeman Willis Croft and all the rest. Barry had loads of it. Most of it was housed in the garage, but when I was clearing the books away after Barry's death, I asked Valerie, his widow, why there were shelves of Gladys Mitchell in the guest bedroom. Her explanation was that this was because Gladys Mitchell was Larkin's especial favourite, and she was kept in the bedroom so that she should be at hand when Larkin came to stay'.

So we know that Larkin would at least have seen the copy on display in the show. And he may even have handled it and read it in bed!

Monday, 20 February 2017

'Larkinworld' at the National Poetry Library

My show 'Larkinworld' is now up and running at the National Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, London. The library is on the fifth floor and is open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-8pm.

Many thanks to all who helped me with the preparation and installation of the show. The excellent photographs were taken by Harpreet Kalsi. More information on the show is available here: