Apparently it is 2 months since I last posted and I have been very aware of that fact but I just haven’t been able to sit down and write. It was the summer months with the boys off school and other things seem to have taken over in my to-do list. So I have slowly been getting back into my routine but still need to be a bit more productive when it comes to blogging! I have been a little too preoccupied with Instagram which I have just discovered, although haven’t completely got my head around it yet. I have also done lots of interesting reading. In one book which I will relate to more in my next post (see getting a bit organised!) the chapter opening is entitled, ‘Flow. The Genius of Routine. Routine , in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition -W.H. Auden. Although, generally my husband I would describe is not quite a creature of habit as am I but when it comes to the studio he definitely is in a routine and it pays off. Over the summer the following pieces went to new homes:
I thought that following my perhaps, sorrowful sounding poem, in my last post; I should qualify that I don’t in anyway regret the decision to stop rowing. I had a fleeting thought where I wondered why I didn’t follow through with doing the PGCE course at Cambridge, from where I could have followed through with rowing after my degree more easily than rowing out of London but I wouldn’t be where I am now if that had happened. Fate. My parents are both teachers and coincidently both ‘the sculptor’s’ parents were. I feel there is something about education which is in our blood, but both myself and my two siblings have probably intentionally avoided it. Which is why I probably didn’t go through with the PGCE course!
So my relationship with my boys education is quite impassioned. After going to parents evening the other week it is apparent that both boys are naturally creative. I guess it’s in the genes. As much as I am impressed by both their individual teachers and the creativity that has been covered. I wish for them a more creative led education system. I am not sure this current system will display the bright sparks they are. But does that really matter?
Part of me wishes that I had the energy, resources and space to home school them. So that learning could be child-creative led. In today’s world I am not sure there is such a need to be solely focused on Maths and English and the level for a 6 year old seems absurd. I am not sure I could answer some of the SAT’s questions on the Key stage one paper. Yet they also do interesting topic work but I am not sure what that teachers them per say.
Education should not be about ticking boxes or getting grades. It should be about learning, exciting and encouraging learning as a life long process. My six year old’s teacher said that, ‘you can tell he sees drawing as work’. However, if you ask him what he likes at school he will say, “Art” and what he doesn’t like is “working”. Surely all learning needs to be seen as fun for as long as possible. If sitting a six year old down for fractions and finding a verb in a sentence is hard work it leave little for when they are 16 surely.
I also think achievement in school does not necessarily correlate with life achievement or career achievement. It is difficult to compare my husband’s education, he was schooled in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Fate. His education really started when he was at university in Cairo, which was free but that’s a whole other issue. So I could rant on but instead will introduce this new collection. The Family Portrait, it is one of a set which is a smaller sized collection which I will try and cover over the next few weeks.
My husband seems to be able to tap into some subliminal subconscious web of communication. There have been several times where he has been working on something which parallels what is happening else where.
These heads were created at the end of last year. Usually working to a smooth, perfected finish these pieces are the opposite. Rough and ready to represent the experiences in life that leave a mark and shape us. Entitled; ‘Mr Green’, ‘Mr Blue’, ‘Mr White’, ‘Mr Red’ and ‘Mr Grey’, colours often symbolising mood, emotion, feelings, expressions. I have put this image with the sculptor in the scene to show the scale of them. As a group, ‘Head’s together’ which yesterday I stumbled across is a campaign, http://www.headstogether.org.uk ,which is spearheaded by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is raising the awareness of “unresolved mental problems” and “wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.”
I thought it would be interesting to show a sketch and sculpture together for a change. I love seeing the lines on paper and then the shift into three dimensions. The bird symbolises the idea of voices or the noise pecking away at the mind.
Mental health has huge stigma, often misunderstood and a reoccurring theme in my husband’s work partly I think because of his increasing awareness of how much it was hidden and not spoken of growing up in rural Egypt. It’s the same here in the UK but with media and celebrities speaking out it is something being uncovered and discussed more and more. It would appear it is a global issue on the rise of being discussed. Again, these pieces show a visual story. A visual interpretation of a subject, theme, idea which we all have connection with an experience of, a shared similarity beyond the differences of culture, class, education, gender.
After posting my last blog entry I realised I had left out a really important image of a piece which sums up the ‘Less is more idea’. So to follow on from Friday’s post:
When asked to choose a favourite piece the sculptor often settles for this piece; inspired by two of his favourite artists Rodin and Mondrian. After making this piece he realised he was influenced by both artists and the architecture of the 60’s. “The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and joinery are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”
I think these words echo truth concerning this sculpture and many of the others, “no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”
This piece is entitled ‘The Thinker’, harps back to the old masters but brings a unique contemporary style for today. It combines the fascination of the piece, ‘The Thinker’ by Rodin and the abstractions of Mondrian.
Ad Reinhart remarked, “The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more. The eye is a menace to clear sight. The laying bare of oneself is obscene. Art begins with the getting rid of nature.
The use of colour is with purpose, the bright yellow represents the spark of an idea, a light bulb moment enhancing the idea of ‘The Thinker’. So whilst this piece strips back all the details of the human body, it still provokes thought, meaning and symbolism.
The ancient Greeks told tales of giant beings called Titans. The sculptor and I might have been cleverer to call this collection The Titans but perhaps ‘The Giant collection ‘is more straightforward. One Titan’s name was Atlas, he was the leader in a war against Zeus, the sky and thunder-god Zeus. After the defeat of the titans Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of the earth and hold the heavens on his shoulders to prevent the earth and sky resuming their primordial embrace.
There has been a misconception that Atlas carries the world on his shoulders as classical sculpture often shows Atlas holding the celestial sphere but it has been misunderstood to be a globe. Atlas therefore embodies the celestial axis and is the personification of endurance as he was a sentence to hold up the sky for eternity.
In later myth he finally turns to stone and becomes what we know now as the Atlas Mountains. Around 500 years ago Mercator made a book of maps and named it an Atlas, Keeper of the World.
In classical European architecture an, ‘atlas’ is a support sculpted in the form of a man, which takes places of a column. Named ‘Atlantes’ these express extreme effort in their function. Head is often bent forward to support the weight of the structure above them across their shoulders.
Here, in this contemporary version of Atlas, Shendi depicts the head bent forward but in an almost ironic twist we see across this titan’s shoulders a collection of birds.
This sculpture depicts the notion that today we carry a weight on our shoulders, which often isn’t as heavy as we might believe. Most of humanity share similar experiences and memories that can weigh us down. The use of colour in this piece represents memories and emotions. The figure here represents us, the birds our problems, which have become larger than the reality of them.
Birds perched together decreases the risk of predators and they usually choose places to roost, which are safe. The size of this giant hasn’t prevented the birds from staying. We associate ‘giants’ with the idea that they have power or a physical presence over us. In this case the birds are the more empowered presence. Just as we can sometimes not shake off our worries or the past, this giant man is unable to shake off the birds.
“That great giant, Atlas, whose shoulders bear the circling sky.” Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 172. Birds often circle the sky following migratory patterns using the sun to navigate by day and the stellar compass at night which depends on the constellations. So they have a need for this ‘Atlas god of astronomy and navigation.
So this piece is heavy in it’s symbolism, rich in its references to classical art and architecture and also brings to modern society a philosophical idea and message that sometimes we need to let go of the heavy burden which weighs us down. Especially here in the ‘western’ world where our problems by comparison should be fleeting.
I have used a few quotes of Muhammad Ali’s in my posts, as his determination and relentlessness remind me of my husband’s. It seems apt that I write about this today. My husband came downstairs this morning and said. Muhammad Ali died yesterday. I felt quite shocked, I don’t know why.
This almost colossal sculpture which my husband finished a few weeks ago immediately made me think of the line, ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. Not just because of the butterflies but the idea of being a fighter, about feeling defeated. When asked about his Parkinson’s disease Ali said, “Maybe my Parkinson’s is God’s way of reminding me what is important. It slowed me down and caused me to listen rather than talk. Actually, people pay more attention to me now because I don’t talk as much.” There is no being defeated. Everything has a purpose.
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
A friend told me the other day that seeing images of the making of the bull made her think it was a very masculine piece. She couldn’t believe it when she saw the images of the finished sculpture as the colour, the pattern, the wings of the butterfly, makes it feminine. This piece has everything.
“The man with no imagination has no wings.” – Muhammad Ali
I have been itching, quite literally, as my eczema has been so bad but an investment in a pair of marigolds seems to be helping with the problem. Suggested by my husband, no problems only solutions. However, that was not my point. I have been desperate to carry on with my sorting and de-cluttering since the boys went back to school on Tuesday. I have been at the shop though, as ever practical, my husband ordered a storage unit for the side of the studio to put in work which is not in exhibition but finished so to create more space in the studio for creating. He has been impatiently wanting this solution for a while.
He booked out a whole day to wait for the delivery, only to be told they couldn’t make it as they needed a special machine. They said they could bring it at 6pm so my husband waited until 7.30pm and it still didn’t arrive. 8am the following morning we received a call saying they were outside the studio. We both wonder why we are so excited about storage and tidying at the moment.
So I have been in the shop all week unable to carry on my house de-clutter project. However, since my last post which resonated with many people a dear friend pointed me in the direction of the KonMari method. So, I have had time this week to do a little research. The method has been created by a Japanese lady Marie Kondo.
Japan and all things Japanese are in my blood, it feels or has definitely have influenced the shaping of me in someway. When I was 18 I went to a small village to live and work in a Leonard Cheshire home. At that time I had only ever been to France and Holland, so the culture shock was huge but I embraced and enjoyed the deep and spiritual meaning which seeped into every aspect of the lifestyle and way of being.
This sculpture, ‘Madame Butterfly’ is the outline of a woman wearing a Kimono. A geisha girl. The opera is very much about the meeting of east and west and there is such contrast between the attitudes and styles of the western world and the eastern traditions. As in the simplicity I desire for the home, this style of the theme of work by husband is about stripping back the outline to the simplest form.
Looking into Marie Kondo’s style and her art of tidying was a great reminder of the Japanese art of being and living. Something I have not been doing and not obviously picked up from my time in Japan as I looked last night at the disaster and disorganisation of my domain. So, eager to implement it, I ‘KonMari’ -ed my wardrobe which is where she suggests to start. With clothing. This seems where I have been going wrong. Starting with all my Japanese memorabilia, letters and souvenir boxes was too hard. I need to learn how to sense whether an item ‘Spark’s Joy’ or not. According to her, by the time I have worked through clothes, books, documents and miscellaneous only then can I tackle those things that have meaning.
In just two hours I folded my huge pile of clothes, origami style and feel instantly inspired. Today wearing a skirt I have never worn before, so much so that the boys were shocked this morning and wondered if I was taking them to school with it on. A skirt which I bought in Egypt when I was staying with my sister-in-law for an extended period of time during maternity leave. So immediately the item has a memory, a story attached to the item of clothing and in this case it spark’s joy. Although, I did have to negotiate the steps up to school a little bit unused to the length of dress.
In today’s busy, constant buying and consumer driven world we all seem to have a deep desire to get back to a more basic way of life. Once we have detached from the past we can focus on the here and now and have no fear of the future- this is the theory. Can we put it into practice?
As the sculptor parts with another sculpture to someone who has purchased it as an item which will hopefully spark joy for them, I wonder what to do with my treasured kimono? Defiantly not something practical to be wearing on the school run.
I have been reading much more recently partly because family and friends have gifted me good books and writing courses (very grateful and much enjoying). I am also more aware of how reading helps my writing and have started reading more factual history books too, this always starts off with great enthusiasm on my part and then quickly wanes as it requires far more concentration and mental athletics. I am trying to slow down my reading and take in each word rather than scan the page just to get to the next chapter and really take it in more. This is tricky, especially when I just want to get to the end of a good book. It affects me though I find, reading alters my mood.
Emotions definitely have the impact to change us, our feelings can be seen visually in body shape, facial expression and mood. All I want to do when reading a book is read and be in the book, everything else becomes secondary, I feel I become the character(s) only when it is well written. At the moment can’t understand how someone can create this. I can only get so far in my attempts to draw up a fictional person with words. A scene or one moment. Some of these writing exercises are making me think more visually and using words to describe, it’s like sketching verbally. The sculptor uses emotions both observed and experienced in both his paintings, drawings and sculptures. His work is a visual diary, both his drawing and his making. Drawing inspiration from the everyday.