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Has bin

“I’m so excited to welcome Montague Smyth to our live show this morning. Regular listeners will know we’ve tried to get Montague on before, but it hasn’t been possible with his hectic schedule. In case you don’t know him, Montague is the highly respected Art Critic for The Morning Post newspaper and can often be found as guest Critic on TV shows such as ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Art Hour’. Welcome, at last, Monague.”

“Sarah, it’s such an honour to be here, what a treat! And to talk about such an exciting show! I don’t think we’ve seen anything this exceptional in the Art World for some time.”

“Well, let’s just dive straight into that, Montague; Art Expo 2021. What did you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Did it light a fire for you? Spark your imagination?”

“Sarah, this year has seen such an explosion of Art from Artists across the country. 2020 is obviously the elephant in the room. It has had an enormous impact, it had to, it has forced artists into isolation and that has made for a period of intense introspection. Deep thoughts and ideas have emerged. It’s as if the whole country went on an artists retreat for twelve months! I think you can see it in the work. Art is always about expression, and it was obvious that a year like 2020 had to be fully explored artistically. The focus, the poise, those deep subterranean themes are bubbling to the surface. Listeners will be thrilled that they can now experience Art as it is meant to be; Art in the flesh as it were. No amount of online galleries and new age experiences can replace the reality of seeing Art in its own space. It changes the very dynamic of a room. You need to stand, ponder, walk around, breathe in, almost taste the artwork. Your listeners should run to this Expo, show their support for the arts and truly experience the artistic explosion created by 2020.”

“That’s a wonderfully positive way to look at it.”

“I think we have to be positive. An experience like this is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity. As artists, it’s important to really dig deep, mine those veins of consciousness, seeking those pockets of pure gold. I also want to recognise the wave of new artists this pandemic has created, crafted if you will, people who had never considered Art as a career or who had never had the time to pursue their dream. Suddenly, the furlough scheme gave these people the chance to dream, to imagine, to build. In their dark, isolated rooms, these artists have grown from small seedlings into huge flowering trees. When they finally fling their doors open, revealing their beauty to the world - the world will be amazed by what they have created. The country has a debt of gratitude both to this period of forced introspection and to the government for taking this brave step of, on the face of it, ‘paying people to do nothing’. The creative wave this has unleashed is unprecedented, and we should all applaud this bold initiative.”

“Montague, I love the way you see this, and it would be a real asset to the country, in a world where creativity is becoming more highly valued, to see this wave as you put it, wash in across the Art world. To continue the analogy, that first wave may also spawn smaller waves which ripple in behind, so this is something which you think could create ‘ripples’ for years to come?”

“Very much so Sarah, and this is what’s so exciting. We can only see this first wave; we don’t know the size or scale of these ‘ripples’. This could change the landscape of the Art world as we know it.”

“So you’ve wandered around the Expo. What have you seen, what has stood out to you? What has lit that creative fire for you?”

“Well, Sarah, I just loved the work by a new artist, Sunday Jones, her work is so fresh and vibrant, she has such a unique eye. She was brought up on a council estate in Essex, by a single father who doted on her, by all accounts. He is one of what we might call the Windrush Generation. He was deported back to Jamaica only then for his case to be reviewed and to be returned here, with apologies and compensation for the distress. Personally, I don’t think any amount of compensation can equate to the distress caused to this Artist and her loving father. Think about suddenly having to prove, after fifty years that you have the right to live here? Think about all those years. All those jobs. All those moves of home. Would you still have all your original paperwork? Would you have it all filed neatly? So then the artist and her father had just put that distressing episode behind them when; WHAM! The Covid crisis hits. Her father must isolate as he is vulnerable at eighty-five years old, Sunday is put on Furlough by her employer. This, for the first time gives Sunday time to relfect reflect on her journey, think about who she is, who her father is, who they are as a family and how they fit into modern Britain. Art is born. Art that transcends the ‘every day’, that makes sense of the chaos.”

“That’s quite some journey. And I agree, her installation is very thought-provoking. How did it make you feel Montague?”

“Right from the moment you walked into that plain white room, you know this is something special. It is so stark, clean lines, white walls. Just the obligatory fire extinguisher and smoke alarm to break that whiteness, we must appease the gods of health and safety, and then tucked in the corner… pure genius. It reminded me of Tracy Emin’s ‘My Bed’ which featured her own unmade bed or perhaps ‘Fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp, the urinal laid on its back. It has that freshness, that challenging aspect, you want to look but you don’t want to look. Is it art? Isn’t it art? What is art? Brilliant.”

“I agree, it makes you think…”

“Genius. To see someone like Sunday, who has never done a show before, suddenly emergence from covid isolation, like a butterfly from her cocoon, to show something this bold and confident, is quite stunning. I don’t mind saying Sarah, in front of all your listeners, that it brought a tear to my eye. It was that emotional for me. We all know that moment of birth, where something new is born into this world. It’s emotional. You can’t escape the drama, the passion, the display. How Sunday manages to capture her position in society and at the same time challenge us, her audience about it. Question us. Remarkable. Quite remarkable. A true talent.”

“Well let’s try, in a radio setting, which I realise is difficult, to describe her work to our listeners.”

“Well, to the untrained eye it’s just an overflowing pedal bin with a Union Jack painted on it. It’s the flag on the bin which elevates the piece in my view; she’s saying the UK is a bin. It’s full of rubbish. We are rubbish. But we’re going to escape. The empty coffee cup and other detritus that have spilt out of that full bin symbolise this for the Art lover. It’s saying you can try to keep us in but we’ll escape your confines, we’ll rise again, recycled perhaps into new better futures; rubbish turned to Art if you will. The half-eaten pizza, the used tissues etc it’s all homage to Emin. Part of you doesn’t want to look but part of you, like with a car crash, can’t stop yourself. And I also want to say, placing it in the corner rather than the centre was so brave. Most galleries would put this work front and centre, on a little pedestal with spotlights, saying ‘look, here’s art’. They rob you of your discovery and the unveiling in your mind; it means so much more when you find it yourself. But not here. Not here! Here, Sunday pushes it into a corner, much as she and her father were forced into a corner, marginalised. Brilliant. Perhaps Art happens in the corners of life? We mustn’t forget that life happens in the middle, and art responds to it, records it, comments on it, questions it, from the sidelines. I just wish I could afford to buy it myself.”

“Montague... I don’t know how to say this... I’m so sorry that we’re live on air, Sunday’s work is the Fire Extinguisher, and Smoke Alarm made entirely from painted match sticks. I think her message is that people like herself are the safety equipment of society, that they raise the alarm and put out the fire but that they also can be the match which starts it all and perhaps, like in nature this process is cyclical...”

“Oh, what complete rubbish…”


1504 words.

Written for the dialogue competition of Writing Magazine Jan 2021 competition. Closing 15th Feb.

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