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

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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.

& -the lessons I have learnt this month.

Colour, Connections, Making, Steel

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‘Ampersand’ 2019. Sam Shendi

My husband was laughing that everyone would know I was poorly the other week because I posted about it on Instagram. Well now even more people will know because I am writing about it on WordPress. However, I have only a few followers so it is not as though thousands of people will know. What is interesting though is that my post had a few more likes and I am aware that the more you divulge about yourself or share yourself, the more likely you are to increase your followers. This is where I struggle because although I would like more readership and followers on some level. I am so introverted that the idea of posting images of myself of  doing stories where I am in them feels totally against my natural inclination.

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The reason I posted about being poorly was that it timely coincided with the sculptors evening photoshoot. Sods Law. I was literally bedridden with a fever and sore throat whilst the boys bounced around in the attic space, which we converted last year. They sounded like a herd of elephants. So I spent time being still and overcoming frustration on several levels. However, the positive is that we have more images to use for social media and galleries now.

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I look back and wonder if I almost brought about my own illness by worrying whether I would still be able to run next month. It is often so difficult to be content with what is happening to us in the present moment but it is the most important time to lean into the situation and learn. So my stillness sparked off doing some meditation which I have done off and on before but never with a regularity, which I was able to do being in bed. I realise now that as much as it is good to move and energise yourself, it is also as important to balance that with stillness. Stillness in a productive way.

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The more I read and learn, ‘Fear is being in a state, ‘not of right mind’. I have no reason to fear the future. Whether I will run or not, whether x,z,z will happen or not.  Fearing the future and worrying only prevents us from focusing on the present and actually makes us suffer twice or once unnecessarily. When you start to understand your own mind, you understand the world. The world is simply what you believe it to be.

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On a completely different subject my husband taught me a knew word when he introduced me to ‘ampersand’. It is quite amusing that he told me it, my husband’s English has improved over the years but I sometimes have to give him spellings or slightly adjust his pronunciation of words. Sometimes I wait a while because I quite like the funny turns of phrase he comes out with like, ‘learning curve” used to be ‘learning curb’. Anyway, I learnt that the alphabet used to have an additional letter, did you know? x,y,x,&. When reciting the alphabet they would say ‘and per se’ so eventually this ran together to become ‘ampersand’.

The argument about never beginning a sentence with ‘and’ is because, to introduce a sentence with ‘and;’ expresses an incomplete thought but it is a stylistic preference rather than a grammatical rule. So you can use it for dramatic or forceful effect.

And so that is why I have punctuated each paragraph with the ampersand sign. So also not quite starting each sentence with and.

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so finally this piece is finished. Usually the sculptor is fairly fast with the process from inspiration to creation, to carving to painting but this big boy has had a longer journey. It was initially created last year and has taken some work moving it and then smoothing it and finally painting it and then having the final photoshoot.

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to give it some scale:

to give scle to &

Husband

Connections, Egyptian, Relationships

Two years ago I wrote about ‘The date’ -(read to find out more about how we met). April 12th our anniversary. Today we have been married 13 years. However, I don’t know whether this date is as significant as the day we met which was in May, sixteen years ago. Sixteen years feels more significant than thirteen. It is crazy to think it is sixteen years since we met, part of me feels only a bit older than that! I don’t know if it is because I married an artist or an Egyptian but that makes no two days the same. I always thought you needed to find someone who was like you, your tribe. That there was some notion of finding another person and finding yourself. Instead I found someone who was the complete opposite of me in most things but he makes me laugh, at life, at myself and together. The verb of husband means to conserve resources and use them frugally which is exactly the opposite of what the sculptor does! The word ‘husband’ comes old norse for house dweller. In fact we bought our house just slightly before we got married so we did become house dwellers around the same time we became husband and wife so I suppose he became my husband thirteen years ago.

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” 

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

the kiss sold

‘The Kiss’ 2013 by Sam Shendi. 

 

Love is not the easiest journey and ours has its struggles and tests along the way. I have realised marriage is mostly a discovery of yourself rather than of the other person. So staring into each others eyes isn’t going to get you anywhere but having a direction forward is probably a better outlook.

Often as adults we are wounded. Wounded either by others or by ourselves. We can quite easily slip into a  daydream of remaining that way and thereby allowing past behaviours to continue. I have found that being with someone who is candid and open about his thoughts and feelings has helped me to unravel my own, slowly.

I think growing up I always believed in the idea that there would be ‘one’ but society, life, the current world we live in makes you question that idea. I was always looking for love. It definitely felt like we were destined to be. He is my guiding light.

 

sam profile

Salah v Shendi and the love of success.

Connections, Egyptian, Public Art, Steel

 

This week has been an extra busy one. A trip to London for the sculptor, there and back in a night and day with no sleep. The sculptures  looking fantastic in 99 Bishopgate, London. A Yorkshire cross-country event, where a select few get medals but the completion of the course is a success unto itself, and Young Voices in Manchester arena for the youngest and I. Where singers stood on stage and talked about it being their childhood dream. Behind them the 6,000 strong children’s choir of which maybe  a handful will become singers. We also had various  mundane doctors and dentist appointments for us all to juggle in through the mix.

It was also my husband’s birthday though sadly the anniversary of his Father’s passing one year ago on the same day. With that and recovering from toothache, the reality of turning another year older was not such a celebration.

Apparently moments after his birth, his father ran with the newborn baby to his parents village to show off proudly the baby boy. My husband grew up in a small village on the Nile delta more than 120 kilometers from Cairo. Born in the 1970’s the landscape was very different to it is today, more fields more open space. He also had a few years of his childhood in Saudi Arabia and Yemen with a mix of family memebers, very opposing experiences in each country. So his whole childhood wasn’t centred in Egypt and wasn’t an easy one. It was almost a bit nomadic in some ways and this, I think created a sort of detachment from people and objects a little. It gave him a self-reliance and a resilience, perhaps.

His life story is different from Salah’s (the Egyptian Liverpool player for those of you who may not know who I am talking about) who was born a number of years later into a modern generation but a comparable village on the Nile delta North of Cairo. Both seem to have a unique determination to succeed from a young age, although perhaps Salah knew his talent was football sooner than Shendi realised it was sculpting. Despite different pursuits they both had a dream and a remarkable journey in pursuing it.

Of course, the fickle footballing world has made Salah’s story that much more accessible than that of my husband’s. Already in a book form suitable for young readers, I have been reading about the young footballer to my youngest son which has been inspiring but brought home the similarity of their roots. The speed to which Salah has gained notoriety is a bit different though. An artists pathway more slow and steady but with the advantage of having a potentially longer career span. My husband gets frustrated that footballers get so much attention and followers and that we become tribal when supporting football teams. He still enjoyed watching the Liverpool matches with us when we were in Egypt though!

Art and football are two antipodal worlds. However, I do think sometimes sport can become an art. Our youngest son loves them both When he doesn’t want to be a professional footballer he wants to be a fashion designer and consequently  Shendi and Salah are both his heroes at the moment. Obviously as his Mother I believe he can do either and I want him to be aspirational. But realistically both are reknowned endeavours which require raw talent, experience and a lot of luck.

It is interesting to me, that what seems to define success at the moment and how the world tends to view success is in terms of material wealth, career and salary. I feel there are more important routes to follow than a material one. People seem very quick to drop their dreams for a security blanket of a job which will enable them to buy the house, the car, the holiday.

Yet if Shendi and Salah can rise up into the art and sporting worlds from small villages in Egypt, overcoming all kinds of obstacles along the way, then it feels like anything is possible. However, one of my favourite quotes from a Disney film is,  “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere”. Having the talent at something has to be a starting point. At what point do these dreams become realised and when is it deemed a success. Why do we love success?

With my eldest I have been reading a book about people who have overcome and endured hardships yet become successful. The message being that failing and flopping is the most important part of succeeding.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people

into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

I think that it more obvious when you lose in sport but maybe easier to get back up again but can you ever fail? In Art it is vague in both being successful and knowing when you’ve lost. It seems to me more of a case of enduring the rises and falls but remaining focused on the direction of the dream.  This image below captures so well, ‘Get your dream’, which is perhaps a better way of being successful.

GET YOUR DREAM

What is sculpture?

Connections, Making

bustblack

My Dad gave me a brilliant article titled, “When does art become art?” by John-Paul Stonard. Stonard argues that when we look at art “we depend overwhelmingly on the presence of the artist’s name”. Is it the ‘art’ that makes the artists rather than the other way around? “We take the thing we are looking at as ‘art’ because we have been told that it has been made by an artist”.

But what makes an artist an artist?

Micheal Craig Martin’s theory is, “As soon as you make a piece of art, you’re an artist”. You can only emerge in the art world as an artist if the work of art gives credit to the master. So the artwork has to be of a standard or quality? However, I am not sure we see that so much nowadays. It is not always about a thing of beauty. For my husband the idea that if you make art you are an artist doesn’t feel right. His idea is that to be an artist it is a level that you achieve when you combine, creativity, ideas and natural talent along with years of practise. My husband’s opinion is that:

“Art is like a world in a different galaxy, you have to travel for years to get to it and when you arrive anything you create becomes art”. 

His answer to the question ‘What is sculpture?’ is that it sculpture is a statement which shares the space with the viewer. It isn’t alive but it is a strong element or subject.

An old colleague of mine, having seen my endless Instagram stories about, ‘what is sculpture’ sent me a message saying his University tutor once said, “sculpture is the thing you bump into when you step back to look at painting”. Before meeting the sculptor I was always so much more interested in painting, I think for me art was painting. Where as now I feel there is something a little more sophisticated about sculpture. There is more of an avenue for abstraction and ambiguity. I was always interested in whether abstract art was a way forward or a dead-end? I think my opinion on that is ever-changing.

However, historically sculpture had more focus and attention. Monuments erected to dominate and display power and prowess. In the past, the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans used their sculptures to connect people with gods. Sculptures were used to overpower people with the presence of three dimensional statues deemed to be a deity. Rulers had sculptures made of themselves. Sculpture was valued and therefore a method to mark out a society.

Duchamp changed the art world with his theory that the role of the viewer completed the work and created a total withdrawal from physically completing work. Heidegger in his ‘Origin of the Work of Art’ in  1935 argues that the artist remains inconsequential.lifeboat-2

“Beginning with art, rather than the artist , returns to the poetry of art”

The Industrial Revolution changed the possibilities available to sculptors. Carving had always been the main skill perhaps where as now fabricating, assembling, combining together materials seem to all be sculptural qualities. After the rise of modernism, the artist became able to manufacture all sorts of materials for the production of sculpture. Duchamp’s radical gesture opened the doors to different ways of generating sculpture. But the lines are now blurred between art forms. What about the statement, ‘You can’t have art without a creator’? Studios in the sixties changed as the factory and fabricators started to be more involved. The removal of carving out your craft, chipping away at a material to create a figure  was no longer the only means by which to produce form. So there isn’t just one person involved in the process but maybe just one person with the idea.

tube form

 

Other influences were nature and organic form on sculpture. Bio-morphism in art relates to the integration of natural and organic form into a work. These works sometimes look amorphous. Suddenly sculpture doesn’t have to be about form or focus on the human body. It opens up an avenue for a whole new exploration into shape, structure, space, line, dimensions.

I think if you look at a Shendi Sculpture, whether you understand it or not, it can be appreciated, observed and will stand the test of time. This is what I am unsure about with the more conceptual sculptures of today. In years to come will it still be able to exist without an ‘artist’ or ‘curator’ placing the ‘objects’ together in their ‘correct’ positions.

Is it all in the labels? Labels on the walls in the galleries, labels that we give people, labels that we give things. Lawerence Scott who was speaking on Russell Brand’s podcasts, Under the Skin last week touched on this idea of labelling and words. My interpretation of what was said, was that we label things in order to define them. Sometimes that definition packages things into boxes when the whole point is to try to think outside the box. Words sometimes are not quite enough to describe what we mean.

I asked our boys, “what is sculpture?” and the eldest replied, “it’s a man-made form which has meaning”. We have been discussing and questioning, as we constantly see new work, which we wonder whether fits in our 11 year olds definition.

Creativity today seems to come down to ideas and in the sculptural sense you can simply present an idea, which can then be classed as art. Classified as ‘art’, only if you are an established ‘artist’, of course.

'chemo 2007'

I’m not sure whether there is any conclusion to this question, but endless opportunities for discussion and I guess that ultimately is the point of art.

2019 Active and ready.

Colour, Connections, Egyptian, Public Art, Uncategorized

picture for 2019

‘The Bow’ by Sam Shendi. Photo: WeWork Devonshire Square. ARTIQ.

2019 is here and rolling and goodness, who knew how important having a holiday is?! I knew I needed one, as it had been eighteen months since a week in Scotland, and four years since a trip like this. However, it’s only on returning that I relish how divine it is to feel more relaxed and patient and how more easily available I am to take a deep breath. I am still in some hazy reality of not being ground down by the everyday shenanigans. I really want to try to remain and contain this slow pace and mellow state of moving and being.

We are warming up slowly to being back in the cold and cooler climates of Cowling (small village in Yorkshire, where we live) after spending  a good two weeks in glorious sunshine and azure skies, although there was strong wind, this only assisted in our catamaran trip and land sailing activities. The other amazing thing was not thinking about what to cook and meal planning, I am still struggling with this. I ate too much delicious food including fresh fish caught by the boys.

We returned to Egypt, despite looking at other destinations. As the sculptor is Egyptian, we felt the boys needed to soak up some of the Egyptian sun and see the sculptor’s sisters. It was glorious to have the sculptor around for seventeen days without distractions of shop or studio. I think this is where a trip of this kind differs from a week in Scotland for us, as we have our own business we are still fitting kitchens  throughout the year so the phone is almost certain to still be ringing. December allows us to completely close the shop.

(If you don’t already follow me on Instagram- thesculptorswife and you can see highlights of our trip away; lots of sea and sun).

So we started 2019 relaxed and ready. Last year my new year’s resolution was to set an intention. For 2018 it was ‘purpose’ which really helped me focus, regular blog writing, getting the house organised a bit better and planning out time more efficiently. All still work in progress but it enabled me to set goals and achieve.

This year’s word is ‘Active’. When my youngest son refused to race in a cross-country event, I had to dig deep and discover why I was so cross about it. I was the one that needed to move more. So this year I am determined to get back my love for being active. Although that focus is primarily about exercise it also encompasses being active here on this blog. It is nine years in the blogging coincidentally, I started ‘The Sculptor’s wife’ after a trip to Egypt with the purpose of writing about my husband’s art work whilst have two small children at home and pre-school. How quickly things change, the boys are so much bigger now and since I first started writing we now have the studio and have produced large-scale pieces of work which have been shipped worldwide.

I am also intending to be active about self-care and Yoga with adriene and the ‘Dedicate’ 30 day yoga journey has been a great start. Highly recommend! This image of the ‘Bow’ (above), to me is a great symbol of a balasana (child’s pose).

‘Active’ also means for me that we are active or proactive about getting the sculptures in exhibitions which is an area we need to develop and ultimately for my husband to be a full-time artist. That is the next big dream. I am not sure how that can happen this year but I read that when manifesting an idea you have to believe it is already so. Hence the image above which is a sculpture on location which is always so satisfying to see. So here we go.

We start next week by having a piece at London Art Fair. More about that next week.

Seasons Greetings

Colour, Connections

IMG_8148

Snow topped Sculptures at the studio

Wishing you all a warm winter wonderland. I say this merrily as we are in Egypt for this holiday season 2018. Finishing off one of my best years in the sun! Thank you for reading and here’s hoping 2019 brings more sculptures, success and stories. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Stars and Stories

Connections, Mother and Child, Philosophy

On Monday evening my youngest and I went running with a running club. It wasn’t easy for me. However, it was a great start in my personal challenge of getting fit again. We were with a group of six children and in between relays, as it was such a clear night, I pointed out the plough to them. We probably could have seen many more constellations, I think Orion’s belt was even visible. It was amazing really and gave me a sneaky way of getting my breath back.

Constellations. Sam Shendi. 2018

Usually I wouldn’t post photos of the work in the studio without the white backdrop but this sculpture: ‘Constellations” didn’t get a chance of a photo shoot before she (I think she is totally feminine) was purchased by a private collector.

If you have only been interested in the Mercury in the new film Bohemian Rhapsody then you may not have realised that we have been in a Mercury retrograde which if I have followed it correctly basically means that three or four times a year Mercury passes earth in orbit and appears to stop and then spin backwards. Apparently this can cause communication crisis, frustrations and confusions. Usually I can be quite tapped into this kind of phenomenon but I don”t think I have been overly clumsy and frustrated. I think that just comes with the territory of being the mother of boys and naturally clumsy! However, this time is supposed be a good one for letting go of ways that no longer serve you and releasing troubled thoughts and bitter words. So let go.

It’s the season of the year for moons and stars. Hopefully all aligned again in time to welcome the winter solstice on the 21st.

“Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being” – Rumi.

How to read art: Understanding Sculpture Shakespeare, & Shendi.

Colour, Conceptual, Connections, Philosophy

section of the branch

Side view of ‘The Branch’ by Sam Shendi

Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? …people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”
— Pablo Picasso

One perspective of 'The Bow'

The Bow, Sam Shendi

Sometimes we try too hard to understand what art is and what the artist is trying to say. Any art form be it; music, singing, poetry, writing, painting, drawing and sculpture, dance and even sport (if you see can go as far as to see that as an art form) is an expression from the artist. The creator. It’s their voice.

section of mermaid

How, as someone trying to appreciate another’s voice, do we try to understand what someone else is trying to say? Like with any conversation, it is best to let go of any judgements, any preconceived ideas or opposition. Easier said than done when in a discussion or a debate.  However, in the case of art. The art form isn’t directly speaking back to you in any kind of altercation, so the ability to let go should be easier.

So, with the case of sculpture if you want to understand it, you can consider these following things:

 How does it make you feel?

toy7

‘The Toy’

And any emotion can be relevant. See what comes up. Accept. Don’t try to force meaning or words. Relax and think about the sensations.

Does it evoke memories? Give you ideas, inspire you, does it open your imagination? Relax.

Shelter 2012 Sam Shendi

Let your eyes wander around it. This is why seeing sculpture, live in its three-dimensional form  is important and can help understanding. We can only appreciate or connect so much from an image.

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Look at the colours or lack of colour, how do the colours impact or affect you?

Consider  the materials and whether that makes you feel a certain way?

I saw recently on the Yorkshire Sculpture Park instagram page the quote, “Sculptures often explore the edges of objects and spaces, overlapping, puncturing or touching”. What about the shape, the form, the surface. Is it smooth, soft, sharp, curvy, does it cast shadows?

cropped-kiss1.jpgHow do you interact with the piece when you walk around it?

Take your time.

Does it speak to you?  What does that question mean to you?

‘Urgency’ 2012 Sam Shendi

Art is an experience.

It is about analysing your emotional response to it and the potential for the work to open your imagination and idea up into potential a higher plane.

We might look at a Van Gough, Monet or a Rembrandt, a Da Vinci or a Michelangelo and think that we can understand the painting and sculpture because it visually makes sense to us. But go beyond what you see. How does it make you feel?

When I first saw the Mona Lisa, I was shocked by the size. When I wandered around Rothko’s large abstract paintings I was in awe. I’ve seen work that is brilliant, baffling and beguiling.

Often we don’t listen to a piece of music, whatever genre and try to understand it. Art appreciation seems a little harder, a little more perplexing. Why?

ripe 2In both there is composition, creating a scene, a mood, a form of expression.

My husband would say that it isn’t about ‘understanding’.  He thinks that unfortunately what is happening now is a generation of people who are driven by materialism and money and are spending too much time thinking about what to create and it that so much of art has become an object or a product. True artists should be simply driven by the desire to express their imagination. He says for example, “if you look at a Dali painting, what he has done is capture his imagination and introduces it to us. We have the opportunity to see inside Dali’s head”.

I went to see Othello with a very good friend of mine. The performance was modern, minimal and had a very shocking scene in the middle of it, which we were not sure needed to be there. Perhaps, we were seeing something that was inside the director’s head…eek! However, what was very noticeable to us both was that because we had studied it for one of our A-level texts we could understand it ( to a certain degree). Where as, we mused that had we not, much of it would have gone over our heads. Watching this Shakespeare performance 20 years after first reading it, seeing it, analysing and taking it apart made me realise that it is important to learn about an art form. If you do want to understand it to a higher level then it is about deconstructing it and putting it back together.

Living with an artist, a sculptor has enabled me perhaps to deconstruct my own way of thinking and put it back together. I wonder if that is essentially what marriage is asking you to do, when you live in a shared space and choose to share your life with someone different from yourself. Communication is so important.

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.

We listen to reply.”

Susan Stiffelman.

The same in art, we look to form an opinion, we don’t look to observe and learn. In Othello, we are shown how character and emotion plays a vital role in understanding ourselves and others and how the dangers of not harnessing those emotions can them can have. We can either analyse and learn from it or put up a barrier in opening up our channels of understanding. So perhaps Picasso was right, we can’t explain art. We have to be open.

“Observe, accept, release, transform” Yung Pueblo.

looking up