Banksy artwork makes social statement in Welsh town

One side of the work shows a child seemingly playing in the snow (above), but the other side shows smoke rising from a burning fire and the snowflakes are actually falling ash.
One side of the work shows a child seemingly playing in the snow (above), but the other side shows smoke rising from a burning fire and the snowflakes are actually falling ash.PHOTOS: REUTERS
One side of the work shows a child seemingly playing in the snow, but the other side shows smoke rising from a burning fire (above) and the snowflakes are actually falling ash.
One side of the work shows a child seemingly playing in the snow, but the other side shows smoke rising from a burning fire (above) and the snowflakes are actually falling ash.PHOTOS: REUTERS

PORT TALBOT (Britain) • A new work by enigmatic street artist Banksy has got visitors flocking to the back of a car garage in Port Talbot, causing quite a stir in the south Wales steel town.

The image appeared last week. Since then, the local authority has brought in two traffic wardens to manage the crowds packing out a narrow lane in a bid to see it.

The work, in the shadow of the town's dominant steelworks, shows a child seemingly playing in the snow, standing by a sled with his tongue out, tasting the falling snowflakes. But round the corner of the garage, it shows smoke rising from a burning fire and the snowflakes are actually falling ash.

"It's lovely because it brings over a number of messages," said local resident Kirstin Tucker.

"When you first look at it from this angle, it just looks like there's a little child out there in the snow playing. But when you see the flames and the pollution that comes around from the other side of the picture, it brings out the thoughts of what Port Talbot was all about, the industrial side of things and the history."

Mr Jason Nicholas Smart added: "I think it's marvellous for Port Talbot that he's come down here and done something for the local community. Strong social statement."

Banksy, the secretive British artist, claimed responsibility for the new artwork on his website and Instagram account.

The garage is owned by Mr Ivan Lewis, 55, a steel worker at the town's Tata Steel plant.

"It started off as fun, but now it's gone to stress. It's down to not sleeping, but now I've got the security there, it's taken that weight off me," he said. "I've never experienced anything like this. My phone is ringing. On my house phone, there's 1,000 messages on it."

The father-of-one said he has not decided what to do with the artwork and denied receiving any offers to sell it.

"I'm really just rolling with it at the moment and I don't know where it's going," he said.

The work is Banksy's first in Wales and is taken by some to be a comment on Port Talbot's industrial heritage and pollution linked to its steel plant.

The traffic wardens will stay in place over the New Year holidays.

Port Talbot resident Anne-Marie Hutchinson said: "To have this unique opportunity to bring people from far and wide... is brilliant for us."

Artistic jaws dropped in October after Banksy's audacious prank involving the shredding of his artwork Girl With Balloon, moments after it fetched £1,042,000 (S$1.8 million) - a joint record for the maverick, who had hidden a shredder in the frame. Experts said the stunt only added to the value of the work.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'Banksy artwork makes social statement in Welsh town'. Print Edition | Subscribe