CHRISTIAN COMMENT: The carnival and the artist

Only two weeks ago - 29th August: bank holiday.

We had so-so weather – could have been worse. Notting Hill carnival seemed to go off well.

‘Nightmare to get away from’ said one visitor, so presumably lots of people.

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Which got me thinking about the cost of policing…… [Apparently, this year’s carnival is costing about £6.6 million. Money well spent? Same cost as a major London demonstration………] and also Tracey Emin whose latest exhibition closed on the same day some three miles due east of Notting Hill – though with smaller crowds.

I’m not really making a comparison. It’s just a co-incidence that we had two exhibitions going off at the same time, both of which made vivid statement s about life-issues.

Differences? For me, one is essentially about fantasy – what we dream, what we’d like to be, what takes us out of ourselves. The other is most definitely about reality – what happens, what (in many cases) we’d prefer not to happen. The solo artist confronts us with life ‘warts and all’ – sexual abuse, violence, degradation, abortion amidst more affirming, more obviously attractive aspects of how we live.

Tracey Emin probably wouldn’t agree with my suggestion that we might wish some stuff not to have happened. Her attitude is just ‘This is it. Let me portray it for you – in case you might not see.’ She is a remarkably self-revelatory artist.

In so doing, so being, she performs a most necessary service. Because most of the time people don’t see. Or prefer to look away. Or they cover things up.

Jesus came to shine a light onto how we are. He suggested people look closely at what they’re like on the inside. People didn’t like that. They liked things covered up, especially with religion. They so disliked what he said and what they saw when they looked inside themselves that they killed him. Except he didn’t die.

In Britain we really do think that if we party, dress up, play loud music, get out of ourselves – then things will be OK.

Not if we stay the same on the inside. The costumes will be packed away, the sound-systems dismounted and the crowds will disperse. We’ll be left with what Tracey Emin sees – pain, fear, bewilderment – and all the things that we use for solace.

Jesus says ‘If that’s how it is for you, come and find me. Call out my name. I’ll give you the peace and the hope and the life and the colour that you’ve always wanted. And it’ll be for ever.’

Nigel O’Dwyer lives and works in Worthing.