Exhibition and Artist Review – Llareggub: Peter Blake Illustrates Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood

Exhibition and Artist Review

What: Llareggub: Peter Blake Illustrates Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood exhibition.

Artist: Sir Peter Thomas Blake, KBE, RDI, RA, best known for co-creating the sleeve design for the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He lives in Chiswick, London.

Born: June 25, 1932 (age 81), Dartford
Period: Pop art
Books: The Arcadian Cipher: The Quest to Crack the Code of Christianity’s Greatest Secret, Peter Blake’s ABC, An alphabet
Education: Royal College of Art, Royal Academy

Where: Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Cardiff, running 23 November 2013 – 16 March 2014
When: 23 Jan 2014.

As part of the year-long Dylan Thomas 100 festival to mark the centenary of Thomas’ birth, the National Museum Cardiff exhibited new and unseen works by Sir Peter Blake.

It featured over 200 water-colours, collages and drawings of the characters that inhabit sleepy “Llareggub”, the fictional town in Dylan Thomas’ play Under Milk Wood (1953).

The exhibition is a celebration of Dylan Thomas’ most enduring work and is the culmination of a 25 year project by Blake.

It was accompanied by a programme of events, including a special evening lecture and conversation with Blake, readings, a performance and a programme of learning activities for educational groups.

throughout his career Peter Blake has engaged with popular culture and especially the music industry.

In this exhibition he demonstrates how he has applied his celebrated Pop Art aesthetic to literature and the Dylan Thomas play ‘Under Milk Wood’ (1953).

His illustration of Thomas’ famous “play of voices” is one of his longest outstanding ongoing projects.

I read that in a 2010 interview, he said; “I have a very comfortable desk in the sitting room and I sit with my back to the television – although if the football is on, I’ll turn round to watch the goal when they play it again – and cut things out or do illustrations for Under Milk Wood. It’s how I relax.”

The evidence of this huge body of work is that it is very much a labour of love.

Peter Blake has worked on illustrating every character, every dream, every scene and every location in the play.

The exhibition featured over 200 watercolour illustrations he has called, “narratives and locations” in a mix of media including collage, black and white pencil drawings and photographs which Blake took himself at Laugharne in the 1970s.

‘Under Milk Wood’ is a mid-twentieth century radio drama by Dylan Thomas, which was later adapted as a stage play and had its first stage reading six months before the writer’s death at age 39 in 1953.

The poetic piece interweaves the thoughts and words of 60 characters (hence the large number of Blake’s of illustrative portraits on show) over one day in a small fictional Welsh fishing town called ‘Llareggub’.

The play opens with all of the inhabitants asleep and the narrator informing the audience that they are witnessing the citizen’s dreams.

These dreams are now brought to life, with the aid of Peter Blake’s pictures.

I was astounded by the attention to detail and the delicate cutouts of the collages.

I secretly and surreptitiously took hundreds of photos on my digital camera which was hidden behind my clip-board where I took notes of the pictures that I particularly liked. I have uploaded the pictures to a Picasa gallery.

The exhibition was ground-breaking and experimental and combined unique visual images with the spoken word.

Peter Blake - Captain Cat - Llareggub

Peter Blake – Captain Cat – Llareggub

In the picture is the character Captain Cat, the blind sea captain, who is tormented in his dreams by his drowned shipmates, who long to live again and enjoy the pleasures of the world.