A creative’s viewpoint of Corona

Drawings, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching

2020 isn’t quite the most glorious year I had expected. But then that’s perhaps what we learn from this whole experience, not to have expectations. To really hone in on the moment, to simply look to the day ahead, the hour ahead, the simple present time we experience. On the other hand, it is a glorious year- the weather has been stunning where we are, nature has spread out her glory and we are having a unique consolidated family time.

I am not even sure what week we are into during this ‘staying at home’ quarantine. Time has become less important to measure and the weeks are blurred and so too will the months become.

In the first week though, the sculptor took to daily drawing and from his imagination conjured up these five sketches of creatures.

Interesting, I thought, as we adapted to a new hibernation, nesting or burrowing back into our homes. Then we saw how nature began to thrive and these last few weeks particularly the skies have been clear, the bees blossoming, tiny buds shooting forth and lambs littering the fields. Maybe, this is because we live in the countryside, for which I am extremely grateful right now. Obviously each year spring appears but this annual season seems particularly plentiful.

My husband was asked by various organisations and galleries to comment on the current situation with the corona virus from an Artist’s perspective. My husband has always believed that artists should be isolated in order to evolve, because mixing with so many people within society causes you to loose your identity or rather within the art sphere not be able to retain originality within the practice. History has shown us that so many viruses have come and passed through humanity and many artists didn’t express the situation within their work. He believes artists live in their own world and from time to time have to share his/her time or world with the rest of reality. Every negative situation or crisis always has a positive side to be seen and appreciated if uncovered. Companies are working together instead of against each other, improvements in the environment are already being seen and nature seems bountiful, spending more time with family, slowing the speed of life down, the expectations, the constant need for entertainment and distraction taken away as we are forced into retreat, all of these things are more positive than the actual virus itself.

The sad thing is so many of us don’t know what the future holds or where we are heading. However, in reality is this not the case all the time? The materialistic machine which the world has become has had an impact on what we call human emotion, it has made us selfish, colder, oblivious and ignorant. Now, people are starting to understand that we all have the capacity for the same emotions and a wider collective is appearing for the first time because of the virus issue. Perhaps, the life as we know it will change forever, and if we come out of this doing exactly the same as before then we are afraid humanity won’t have learnt anything.

Although the current situation is not ideal it is perhaps better than where we were heading, to find the positive impact which may come from this huge change. On a personal level the sculptor has always tried to isolate himself because of a need and desire to have time to absorb and recognise or realise an inner state of being. Looking at the past, as this is the only thing we can learn from, most of the greatest names mentioned in the history of humanity had their own time in isolation. Perhaps, now it is better know as meditation. Important though for reflection.

Life is fast. It has been getting faster everyday. We are not as fast. We need to slow our energy and atmosphere around us in order for this phase not to break us. We need to improve ourselves not our houses, our cars, our careers, our consumption. This time is precious. This is the present. It is a gift.

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African Collection (part I)

collections, Colour, Connections, Egyptian, History, Steel

The African Collection is a new body of work which has layers of shapes and meaning. These works follow on from ‘The paper cut collection’, and a progression from a piece which my husband originally made in wood, like a prototype or maquette over ten years ago. I love this style. I love this collection. They are modern and contemporary yet at the same time referencing history. Egyptian heritage is very different from African History and yet Egypt sits within the African continent and the Ancient Egyptians themselves were influenced from central Africa, particularly art. Recently my husband was told that he probably descended from Sudan. The clue is in the name, there is a town in Sudan called Shendi. These pieces are referencing traditional African art styles, you can feel it from the vibrant colours and markings and the cut out shapes as well as the forms. African art also inspired Picasso and other artists of history so it links an Art History journey. As each sculpture has so many images I am just adding three pieces here, Afro IV above and Warrior I and Warrior II below.

The colours, shapes, patterns and angles create almost different sculptures depending where you view it. These layers of meaning can be interpreted as perspectives. When we are told stories it is often from only one viewpoint and this colours our understanding. It affects our knowledge, our history, our legacy. We are currently all being told stories from one perspective.

Creating a piece of art work which changes depending on our viewpoint can challenge us into considering this within life. When we look at something, we need to consider how we are seeing it and the filters that we put up or bring up which influences our ability to understand. Filters being, our own cultural upbringing, conditioning, experiences and so on. Our life experiences shape us, causing us perhaps to put some of our authentic nature into the shadows. What I also love about this style of work is the shadows they create. These pieces are creative visual storytelling. They evoke a juxtaposed playfulness and seriousness which perhaps embodies the African spirit.

Here, there, everywhere, then home.

Awards, Colour, Exhibitions, Galleries, Public Art, Soul searching

It was October when I last wrote an entry here, ironically it isn’t because I haven’t been writing. Actually, I have been writing more than ever with good old fashioned pen and paper in a spiral binder from school days. Daily journaling which I am finding fulfilment and satisfaction in and a kind of cleansing as we enter into a new decade. I started to wonder as I go into the tenth year of this blog whether I should continue with it or branch out into something new but I remind myself that my intention for this was to record my husband’s journey into the art world and a little outlet for me whilst the boys were growing. With my eldest almost at my height, they are not so little anymore.

So 2019 ended well with the sculptor having two exhibitions at The Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh part of The Annual Exhibition and the Open SSA+VAS exhibition. The sculptor is off to Edinburg on Saturday (tomorrow) to collect them. Some stunning photos were taken of his work in exhibition, thanks to Chris Watt (photographer) & Naomi McClure ( fellow artist in the exhibition).

Image from The Times

We were completely surprised to find out at the start of the year that he won the W Gordon Smith and Mrs Jay Gordon Smith Award for work of merit at the SSA | VAS Open 2019. So this feels like huge recognition.

In the autumn, the sculptor went to Italy to receive the first steel cut for the Cunard. This year he will set to creating and making a sculpture for the ship, the first meeting yesterday so he is just back from London, re-inspired for this huge project. He also collected work from Belgium, took some down to Oxfordshire, had a meeting in Cambridge, is getting work back from Manchester later this week and preparing for a debut back in Egypt in the spring. It is non-stop and either up and down on trains or in a hired van depending on whether sculptures are with him or not. So he is literally here, there and everywhere.

Photo by Christ Watt

I mentioned in a previous post that my own journey appears to mirror the sculptural journey. I have not ventured physically far, although my running distance and length are gradually extending and I am forever ferrying my football son to training and matches but my here, there and everywhere is more of a journey inward. As I finish up my 30 day yoga journey with Adriene YWA I am learning that I need to trust my own path. Let go of what is prescribed or following others and steer my own course. In todays yoga practice I couldn’t quite let go of the need to keep looking and watching her lead. Sometimes it can feel hard to venture off on your own path.

“Awareness returning home is awareness being enfolded by what it knows”

John De Rutter.

I also started 30 day, daily writing journal, at the beginning of the year which I think I need to try and continue the habit of, let go of the guide and listen to my inner voice. Meditations and hypnosis, reading and listening to podcasts I would also recommend to return home to yourself, for I do love winter as a time of hibernation and self development. We all take our own journey through life, we may go off in every direction, opposite and parallel. We wiggle and weave, take twists and turns but ultimately we are all heading in the same direction. The question is, what do we learn along the way?

“We are all just walking each other home.”

Ram Dass

Projects are brewing here and overseas- those twists and turns and I am positive that 2020 will bring more exciting opportunities and hopefully I will keep this little blog up to date monthly. All part of the journey.

Words flow, Words come, Words go, So I dedicate time to grow, Whilst my husband creates, Eldest plays bass, and the youngest kicks a ball at a fair pace.

Words appear, Words stick, Words release, I learn to find inner peace, Whilst my husband is prolific, Eldest plays video games-take your pick, and the youngest kicks a ball with another new trick.

Words flow, Words come, Words go. This regular morning journalling is developing a skill you know.

Victoria, Anne and Matilda

collections, Colour, Connections

September is gone and October arrived and with it so many butterflies. Victoria and Anne and Matilda are sat round the table doing free flowing writing exercises, like the Bronte sisters did. I only know that because last week I went to a poetry workshop in Haworth. Lead by the poet Clare Shaw with her beautifully broad Lancashire accent who poetically spoke of Emily, Anna and Charlotte as though we were there with them. Names. Interesting how we name things and they become so. For these sculptural cocoons my husband named them old Queens of England. Read into this whatever you like; history, identity, nationality, royal family.

The philosophy of these pieces is based upon something the famous sculptor Michelangelo is quoted for, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. As though there is a life form within the material being manitpulated, asking for release,  finding a way for freedom from the restraints within the cocoon of medium. My husband’s sculptural journey is often  exploring ‘within’,looking at keeping that statue trapped. Not allowing the ‘breaking free’ process to occur and focusing on the development of the chrysalis. As the sculptor, I suppose this is his licence, to keep it under wraps.  A butterfly just tapped on the window, as I write which gives me a sign I am on the right track.

My interest is in the naming. The famous sculpture of Michelangelo is ‘David’. When we view the sculpture ‘David’ we see a carved figure of a human form. It is unlike earlier Renaissance depictions of ‘David’, the biblical hero standing over Goliath. Michelangelo’s pose is before the battle actually takes place. Over time sculptural practice changes and develops with shifts in materials, philosophy, ideas, the things that inform the world around us. As much as we can still carve materials into almost exact replicas of things, there has to be an evolution to creativity. My husband is making reference to the title of ‘David’ by naming the art work female names in the same way. This creates a story around the sculpture and asks the viewer to question the form. It  suggests that the figure is within the form but additional addresses the idea of what the human form actually is and to think of the body as simply a vessel, to look beyond shape. This concept is prevalent in much of my husband’s work. He is exploring the idea that we are so much more than our bodies  but congruently, sculpturally, this collection is all about form, shape, mass, volume.

Almost at the same time as this collection was completed my husband won a project  which we currently have to keep ‘under wraps’.  A project which has meant a trip to London yesterday for the sculptor. The link between the titles of these sculptures and the up and coming project is a little bit like my constant observation of butterflies. All signs and symbols that everything is unfolding as it should.

 

The Metamorphosis Collection

From Cocoon to Chrysalis. The Metamorphosis Collection

collections, Colour, Connections, Soul searching

Unintentionally I took a break from blogging in August. It strikes me that summer is a time for growth. For, the children physically, perhaps, for adults mentally. For me this summer I felt a strong need to work on self-development. I had heard that changes can happen when you turn the glorious age of 40, that shifts occur as though you are entering a new phase. I have a belief that things will fall into place for me within this decade. I didn’t realise it would be so marked.

I’ve also made a connection that my husband’s sculptural journey somehow mirrors my own life journey. So, when the boys were younger there was a heavy focus on ‘Mother and Child pieces‘, The ‘Giant collection’ when perhaps I was working through some post-natal shifts. The ‘Calligraphy collection’ as I started to outline my blog and with this latest collection during the summer months lots of links.

The metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly is a fascinating one and interestingly the boys love finding caterpillars and I love photographing butterflies. I think we all like seeing the positive result of change. This summer I have had time to reflect and do some work on my self, some self-realisation and feel, almost as if I am transitioning from a cocoon to the chrysalis. Meanwhile, the sculptor has been carving away at the ‘Metamorphosis collection’.

Matilda

‘Matilda’. The ‘Metapmorphis Collection’ by Sam Shendi

“Self-realisation is a strange term. You don’t actually realise your self.

If anything, you go away. The caterpillar enters a cocoon of meditation: A butterfly emerges, metamorphosis.” Frederick Lindemann

The Story begins with a very hungry caterpillar. The boys loved this book when they were little. I am totally that very hungry caterpillar and this is one of the aspects I am trying to evolve from! The next stage is spinning itself into a cocoon and within the protective casing radical transforms occurs. The Chrysalis is not a resting stage, a lot is happening. I think I am in that stage still and not yet quite the butterfly. It isn’t just about an external transformation, although I am working on that too. Trying to focus on active and healthy choices. It is the changes from within, re-working old habits, extending and expanding new thoughts and ideas. Shedding the layers physically and peeling away at the onion of our psychology.

“And so artistic creation is the metamorphosis of the external physical aspects of a thing into a self-sustaining spiritual reality.” Hans Hofmann

Victoria

“Victoria” from the ‘Metamorphosis Collection’. Sam Shendi 2019

I had some very liberating moments this summer and conversely some real trigger moments where I had some strong negative physical reactions to things which were happening. It is so important to navigate those trigger moments to understand what is happening in the sub-conscious and learning from them. To develop personal growth we need to acknowledge what we haven’t fully been willing to step into and where we are able to overcome those feelings. Like the caterpillar it is important to sacrifice who you are right now in order to see who you can become.

“I’d rather be this walking metamorphosis

than having that old formed opinion about everything.”  Raul Seixas

Anne

‘Anne’ part of the ‘Metamorphosis collection’. Sam Shendi 2019.

The butterfly isn’t necessarily the end result, just the start of the journey. One of discovery. Creativity. Exploration. Shapes of cocoons vary, yet there is something universally simplistic and beautiful about them. All the more intricate work happening within. As humans we have a tendency to focus on our exterior, our outer shell and leave our inner being under nourished. The work that goes on within us is transformative and the only real change we can make begins with ourselves.

I’ll write more about the sculptural concepts next time!

“It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: 

all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.” Henry Miller

 

Making your mark

collections, Colour, Connections, Egyptian, Exhibitions, Making
The Braille Collection by Sam Shendi. Collectively looking like an alphabet system

To quote Mark Twain, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” has resonated with me for a number of years, firstly because my husband so clearly knows his own purpose and what he finds joy in doing but secondly because I have been very much the opposite of that. Like my shellfish star sign, I scuttle one way then retreat into my shell and then shuffle along in another direction. I have had so many interests over the years that I describe myself as ‘jack of all trades master of none’.

However, on Friday 12th July this year, my mother and I gracefully stumbled upon an exhibition at the British Library. In London, for a weekend away (my first without the boys in over 7 years I might add again) we realised neither of us had been to this tower of treasures before.

‘Writing: Making your Mark’ runs only for a few more weeks and it was a fortuitous turn that led us there. Delightfully, without children I was able to read every display case and successfully answered one of the little quizzes you could test yourself with about where types of writing originated from.

Not only have I struggled with a lack of direction in what I like to do I also need to overcome perfectionism. It is a hinderance. The desire to do things right overtakes the joy of an act. Yet somehow I have managed to keep this blog running for nine years despite my pitfalls in grammar and sentence construction.

It dawned on me in the dark depths of the British library that I have always been writing. Diaries, Journals, poetry, school work, blogging. I have dabbled in Russian, French, Japanese and now Arabic. Although, I am definitely not a linguist the idea of words, calligraphy and the art of writing is definitely something that I have a passion about. I wondered then from the belly of the building of books whether I had finally had that day. The second day that Twain deems an important one. I am declaring it almost so, for accountability perhaps. Fear that incase in a couple of months the idea of being a sports psychologist rears it’s competitive head or the family teacher trait takes a triumphant turn.

Ebony I

Writing features in the sculptors work in his Calligraphy collection and in one of his latest collection ‘Braille Branches’. This collection is one to raise awareness of environmental issues whilst simultaneously connecting with the visually impaired. The sculptures have different textures, surfaces and forms that lend themselves to touch and feel. The flat surface has raised patterns which allow the works to have a written message. When I was in the writing exhibition the section on Braille described it as tactile writing, patterns of dots or cells which can be used to represent letters, numbers and punctuation.

Ebony II
Ebony III

Something about these pieces looks ancient and futuristic combined, like modern tablets on ancient structures or alien-like forms with a primordial message. “Throughout history, we have engaged with writing in countless ways, using a variety of tools and materials. Writing and technology, have often developed hand in hand, inspiring and influencing one another. For thousands of years people have used writing to make their mark in a multitude of ways.” (Exhibition guide)

Today we use screens, express with emoji’s, communicate by text and yet I was thrilled to receive a beautiful fountain pen for my birthday halted in my endeavours to begin as I need ink! What will the future hold for the way we write, create, express and make our mark on the world. Thanks to Mark Twain I am eager to find out why and what happens next….

Yin & Yang is life

Connections, Exhibitions, Relationships

Life isn’t always black and white. It’s technicolour, pastel, vibrant, dull, shades of grey.

Yin and Yang is the ancient chinese philosophy of dualism. Symbolising how opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent with each other.

Rather than opposing one another two different things can work in harmony. Shadow can not exist without light. The sculptor and I, are defiantly Yin and Yang and this has taught me a great deal. Living, working and raising two children with someone who is very different is extremely interesting. It has had its challenges but the laughter far aways those and for the boys hugely beneficial.

As individuals we all meet the darkness, dip into negative thoughts, doubts and fears and yet we also have days when we think we have wings and can fly. The beauty of life is riding those highs and lows and understanding without one we wouldn’t have the other. Important to master though, is the ability to reduce the time in those miserable moments to just moments rather than days and months and years. Finding the right balance.

Yin and Yang by Sam Shendi 2019

Despite all our differences; culture, religion, language, sex, political view point, we all share essential human emotions. This is what make us human. This is ultimately the main theme of my husband’s work. To enable us to understand our shared humanity. We shouldn’t need to define ourselves with labels, groups, with what makes us the same as or identify as being ‘not the same’ as someone else.

We are all individuals, unique and yet we are all one. Duality and unity. Yin and Yang. I love how when these two sculptures face each other it is almost heart shaped. When we accept others for who they are and we can accept ourselves we would be congruence with the true nature of humanity.

This pair have been in at an Artiq exhibition in London for the past 10 days. As I write the sculptor is on the way to collect them to bring them back to the studio and also deliver a piece for the Royal British Society of Sculptor’s summer exhibition. It’s all balance.

Liverpool Plinth Winner 2019

Awards, Colour, Connections, Exhibitions, History, Public Art
Split Decision outside the church

Today is summer solstice, the longest day of the year which gives me extra time to get this written. Well, obviously not really but I am trying to use the daylight and sunshine to my advantage.

Another year which is speeding by with its struggles but also with success. This time last week ‘Split Decision’ was unveiled as the winner of the Liverpool Plinth competition, positioned on a plinth outside the Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. The sculptor entered three pieces into the competition made possible by Dot-art and Liverpool BID company. It wasn’t a commission. This piece was made 2 years ago and fortuitously hadn’t been exhibited anywhere before. We assumed he hadn’t won the competition or even been shortlisted because, back in May we still hadn’t heard anything . However, there had been a little delay in the announcement and so we were double thrilled to find out that he had won it. 

Last Friday, the rain just about held off and the sculptor enjoyed a fantastic day in Liverpool with important people and press. He kept phoning me with updates. I love the photo below where he is being interviewed and is beaming from ear to ear.

 

It feels a pinnacle of the journey so far, to be on a public plinth for a year, gaining publicity and exposure. It has been fascinating reading the initial public reaction, my first response was of anger at some of the comments but the sculptor is at a point in his career where he understands that art will provoke both positive and negative feedback, both are valid. The fact that it is creating conversation, for him, is the benefit and what he is looking for.

 

content of plaque on the wall below

I am so proud and can’t wait to take the boys to see it over the summer holidays. It felt very serendipitous to me that this first very public event was in Liverpool. My father was born there and as a family we have supported Liverpool’s football team for decades. There felt a strong link and connection.

So if you are in the north of England and passing by Liverpool, take a trip round the one way system that almost made my husband late for his own event!

The sculpture is facing out towards the famous water front. You can’t miss it.

Photos taken by Andy Garrett

Portugal with Art Catto

collections, Colour, Galleries, Mother and Child

When I was younger, I think I had the illusion that if you find yourself a mate you would then happily sit in a nest together looking out at the world. However, that isn’t what I have found to be true and not what has worked for me. For us, we fly down different valleys and then return to the nest to share tales of what we have seen and heard. That way, we see more of the world and are able to share a nest as well.

When the sculptor goes gallivanting off to sunny shores for exhibitions I really don’t have any desire to go with him. Over the past few years he has been to South Africa, Germany, Belgium and several trips to London. Perhaps, once the boys are older and no longer have the same need for me, I might go but whilst they are still young I’d rather be with them as an anchor. I am not sure how honest this is. However, he is there to work not to holiday. Also, because we work together it is actually quite good to get a little break! Actually, I think I would like to go on my own solo holiday and I have been reading about how for some women this is really important. I do think I perhaps should have spent more time on self care when the boys were smaller. However, I think this has only become a really ‘buzz’ concept over the last couple of years.

When it comes to travelling my husband and I have very different approaches which doesn’t make it the most relaxing of experiences for me. At these exhibition openings he is there for a purpose. He needs to be able to mingle and chat and he does so apparently with ease but he gets so so nervous before hand. On this trip he met a variety of people from all walks of life and he tells me everything in such detail, he is full of stories on his return. It is quite amazing to think of a young boy from a small village in northern Egypt now taking his work from the UK to Portugal. This collection of work is from the ‘Only Human’ collection and is presented by Art Catto at the Conrad hotel, Algarve.

The colours of the sculpture look awesome against the blue sky and green foliage. A true picture of summer. Meanwhile, whilst the sculptor was there struggling in the heat. I was running the shop, which actually is relatively straight forward with the addition of two boys as it was half term holidays and zero sunshine. My youngest, very active boy kept himself busy using a display fake peach, from the fruit bowl, as a football and scuffing all the plinths needless to say I didn’t keep the shop open for long. Except for a day when my parents took them to York for the day I had peace and quiet in the shop. So we survived and the week went past quite quickly. Interestingly, I had a fleeting moment before he went that I wouldn’t be able to do it all. I quickly realised that this was ridiculous and that I was more than capable of being able to do it all. I have been reading and listening to various things recently that confirm that what you are thinking and believing has so much impact on what happens. On the flip side of that, I had lots of ideas of what I would do whilst I had the evenings to myself but none of them really happened and I missed the sculptor more than I would admit. He is back now and the next project is Liverpool plinth….exciting stuff!

 

Full video : What is imagination?

Connections, Philosophy, Publications

 

I feel like I have heard the question, ‘What is imagination?’ echo around my head and in my kitchen for the whole of this year. It is the same video as I posted a few weeks ago with the addition of the second half about the sculptor’s imagination. So do keep watching until the end. I think it is quite a good, inspirational, informative, educational little video delving into the working of an artistic mind.

Let me know what you think.