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

Take Five, ‘artists who have lit up the genre’. How one got there.

History

black-and-white-photo-exhibi

The gallery, The Civic, Mother and Child by Sam Shendi

It’s about 14 years since I met ‘the sculptor’ and although when I met him he wasn’t practising very much, he did an occasional clay sculpture but he was painting and drawing all the time, as that is what his space limited him to. Over the years as we increased our space his practice developed along with it. We had a fantastic attic flat for a year where lots of clay maquettes were made. When we bought our first house they survived the move and were all sat on a folding dining room table until one night we heard a crash and the table had collapsed along with probably 50 or so clay sculptures.

Just after I had our first child I was sat in the living room and the midwife came to visit,  3 clay heads lined up on the floor and she pointed to them and said that will have to stop. I never really understood what she meant. I was in the fog of being a new mum. I hope she meant that we would have to stop putting them on the floor and that she didn’t mean to stop the practice.

We did stop putting them on the floor but the studio then was a tiny shed in our yard until about perhaps 4 years ago – I’ve lost count, when we finally got a studio space and this was pivotal in the development of his work.

In January I will have been online with this blog for 6 years and this is my 250th post. And in this time we have come so far. On Saturday in the weekend Yorkshire post, we were so excited to see this:

take-5

Saturday 26th November, Yorkshire Post Magazine

 

To be listed alongside Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore is a dream come true. We are lucky in Yorkshire to have had these two greats among our history, heritage and it is quite almost unbelievable to be seeing ‘the sculptor’s’ name in a top 5 list with them. From my point of view, it is so deserving and so true.

It is great publicity for our other achievement, a solo show opening at The Civic in Barnsley. Yesterday my husband and the team at the gallery set up and it’s all ready for the private view on Friday evening and the show runs until January 28th 2017. The photos he took of the set up look stunning. The exhibition is entitled Mother and Child and it was interesting looking back and my first three blog entries all of mother and child pieces. Mother and Child is an endless subject and timeless. This exhibition at The Civic is very much about storytelling.

mother-and-child-collection

‘The colour blue is prevalent throughout the collection, and is used in a way that it respectfully represents the struggles which go with motherhood; the depression, the sleepless nights, the fear of losing the child, the back pain, the swollen feet, the pain of giving birth and going beyond one’s own comfort, the sacrifice.

It seems ironic that the journey we have taken in developing the sculptor’s success into the art world mirrors my own journey as a mother. When I look at these pieces they are monuments of the last 10 years of motherhood for me. But they are everyone. They will touch and impact on anyone who sees them. They are a reminder of the truth, motherhood is one of the greatest and unrecognised and often under appreciated roles on earth.

If you are in Yorkshire anytime from  3rd to January 28th I would recommend a visit to The Civic. Open Tuesday -Saturday, 10am- 5pm.

A whole lot of Greek going on

Colour, History, Philosophy, Soul searching

The symbolism and history of Troy is immense, the Trojan horse, not only as great tactic of war and deception but a pivotal moment in ethics of morality. Simon Armitage considers “how we are locked in the same cycles of conflict and revenge, of east versus west, and the same mixture of pride, lies and self-deception that fed the Trojan War”. In the moral world of the Greeks, revenge was the way to go and there was great honour in that. Now in modern or perhaps western understanding there is a shift because of the way society is organised and social needs , the way we think of ourselves as human has changed. Perhaps we believe that the shift from vengeance to justice and forgiveness much greater in the moral compass. In many ways we fool ourselves into a deception of thinking how we would react, if a situation would arise that provoked us would be vengeful?

I felt I needed to research a little bit before writing about this piece but consequently it is harder to finish. It has taken a bit more working out. Having studied Classics at A level, the subject is not too foreign however, my memory appalling. In its own twist of fate I happened to listen to a ‘Start the Week’ episode on Radio 4 about Greek Tragedy and it would appear that with the memorial of world war one this year there is a harbouring back to the past about war and tragedy. Perhaps I am scrambling up all that was discussed in the programme and not coming out with much sense but it highlighted to me again the idea of the subconscious interconnection of ideas between artists. In this case there is definately a lot focus on Greek history this month. So in a good arts and culture plug: The Last Days of Troy is on at the Royal Exchange, Manchester from 8 May – 7 June and then at Shakespeare’s Globe, London from 10 – 28 June. Thebans, with words by Frank McGuinness and composed by Julian Anderson, is at the London Coliseum until 3 June. The writer Kenan Malik’s book ‘The Quest for a Moral compass’ is also out this month and in discussion at the Hay Festival this weekend (30 th May).

In a more rural setting, in a small village a sculpture stands in a studio. This epic piece took its own journey of making ( as you can see from the images in the entry ‘Space to play, place to work’) From a block of polystyrene the craftmanship of this is paramount to those Greek and Roman sculptors of past.

'Troy'

‘Troy’

'Troy'

‘Troy’

It is a contemporary recreation of an idea that fascinates my husband. The horse itself as an animal a majestic creature and the idea that sculptors, craftsmen, creators have been making things for centuries. This work may seem very different in style from recent works which have been more minimal more geometric such as the ‘Souls’ pieces.

There is the link of colour but there is also the link of ‘Soul’. For me ‘Troy’ is not just the idea of a tactic of war and of armies or military power. It is the shift from the outward reality to the internal.  The human condition internalized. We may not personally seek vengeance on the gods as in Greek history but we analyse and over analyse our behaviour our minds. However, like the horse on the outside, impressive, beautiful and an object of admiration, inside destruction is about to manifest. So, today are we, on the individual level, all about making an external impression, beautifying ourself and showing off our achievements.  Objectifing and materializing. We forget our integrity and what is hiding within. Our own internal beauty gets lost and so where is our ‘Soul’.

 

On being, ‘The Sculptor’s Wife’ (Part I)

Colour, Egyptian, History, Making, Relationships

A few months ago I was at an exhibition with my father  and we met  a lady, she was the artist’s wife but when I told her that I wrote a blog called ‘The Sculptor’s wife’ she was disappointed in not asserting myself as an individual other than being attached to someone else. She said she always introduced herself by her name rather than ‘the artist’s wife’.  Anyway, ‘The Sculptor’s Wife’ had a good ring to it when I named by blog and it gave me a definite purpose and direction to the blog. Otherwise I may be waffling even more so than I am already. I have titled this entry (Part I) as I feel I could write on this topic in much more depth and I have been working on this for a few days now and have the need to click the ‘publish’ button…

cropped-img_0909.jpg

‘A sketch’

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between living with the Sculptor, the artist or the Egyptian, or just simply maleness. What I mean is, I hear other woman talk about lives at home and I think, ‘oh that doesn’t just happen in our house then!’. So what are the unique things about living with a sculptor?

I came home the other day to a pretty foul smell in the kitchen, the back door open so it was freezing in the house and my Wellington boots were involved in some strange procedure. So I am now ‘welly’ less! Which on the positive side means I get to buy a new pair and that my sturdy old rowing wellies get immortalised in the next piece of art work. The backyard had become the make shift studio and the wellies were being filled with a hairy fabric which is scattered over the paving slabs and occasionally getting dragged back inside. From what I could see through the window the glass fibres were stuffed into the wellington boot and then a kind of liquid resin was poured in. The process of Fibre glass. Once it had hardened there was some sawing and sanding going on. To which our toddler said he didn’t like the noise that Baba was making. It’s not the first time something of mine has been used in a project. The umbrella used in ‘Shelter’ was a very smart designer umbrella my husband had bought me in Denmark, but after several purchases of umbrella’s and stripping them of the fabric. Mine apparently was the perfect shape!

welly 1

‘The Welly’

Living with a sculptor is unconventional. For a start there is no 9-5 or fixed working hours and I am very aware that my husband lives in the ‘present’ when I first met him think I was often preoccupied with worrying about the past or anxious about the future and it has been great for me to be with someone who is very focused in the here and now. Although now with children I think the fact that I do plan a little is helpful. The need for an artist to be ‘I the present’ I feel is a lot to do with observation and being open to what is happening in the moment giving rise to inspiration. He is by nature a rule breaker so anything that would be seen to be ‘normal’ is abnormal. Like Dali, he believes he is from a different egg. Perhaps all artists are?

He is definitely complex and my husband is just that, people are but artists do seem to be on more of a roller coaster, an extra layer of. There is constantly ideas spinning around in the air, ideas for next sculptures and projects and dreams. There are constant ups and downs in self belief. He won’t ever stop working, drawing and making. An artist doesn’t really have time off. It is a way of life. I have visions of what it will be like when he can be a full-time artist and not juggling our own business too. At the moment, the juggling of business and the art world means he is working none stop, not that I think that will change much if he was only sculpting but he would be a little bit more relaxed!

I don’t understand why people have a problem with ‘being a wife’. There is a saying behind every great man is a great woman’. I guess there could be the argument that you shouldn’t be behind. I don’t feel that. I feel at his side. I am not so much the ‘muse’ but the ‘voice’. Little bit ironic as my voice is not strong but I am the voice of the sculptor. So it feels a definite ‘we’ and ‘us’ working towards the dream most of the time!

We are currently waiting for March 6th …two days time…eek, when the interviews for the public Art award will be held. The anxiety means we have been having daily conversations about the maquette, the idea, whether there is a chance of him winning and what it would do for his career. The waiting has been almost excruciating, I just hope we are not putting too much emphasis on this award and that all the hard work will have paid off. We just need to stay hopeful and pray that Wednesday will bring good news.

Inside Out

Exhibitions, History, Philosophy, Public Art, Soul searching, Steel

‘The Nail'

‘The Nail’

‘Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled’ has been our anthem to this month. We have sung it nearly ever day and have been able to spend some time in lovely autumnal sun, exploring. The light in the early evening has given some beautiful wintry skies and the fresh crisp air has really blown away the summer blues. Having said all that we have had a lot of rain too, the ground is muddy and it is nice to feel snug indoors. Autumn has become my favourite season, and it has inspired me to do lots of sorting out like a spring clean.

As a sculptor, work can be outside or inside. As I write that I realise all art can but perhaps in some ways sculpture is more celebrated outdoors. My husband has two pieces outside but the rest all have ‘the will to grow’ to be in a public space. The image here is ‘The Nail’ which celebrates the nail making in the town it is situated in. I have been reading a book set in Neanderthal times and has really made me think about how we have progressed and developed in so many ways but in the process lost our connection with the earth. We have become indoor people (well some of us) but we have the comfort of our homes,when there would have been a time we spent all out time outside.

The Keyhole Family who were standing in the window of the hair salon (see earlier post) have wandered across London to a menswear store Browns (Browns blog). Whilst my husband was there setting up the window display he casually looked at a t-shirt. “Good choice” said the sales assistant. “It’s Japanese”. It had a £2000 was the price tag. If we think about our survival, how we have journeyed through the ages, astronomical doesn’t even convey the expense. Meaning has lost all impact. Like the ‘arrow man’ we have lost our direction. Which way are we heading?

‘The Keyhole Family’ @ Browns Menswear

Some people spend ‘astronomical’ amounts of money on clothes and beauty without thinking about the need to beautify themselves from the inside. Others concentrate on beautifying themselves from the inside and forget that sometimes first impressions count. As with everything balance is so important. Like our bodies, our minds too has a need to be outside or inside, reflecting within ourselves or spending time with others. Sometimes we can’t quite express what we are thinking and feeling inside. I often wonder how well we can know others or how they can know us. We like to think we are individuals but we share so much of the same emotions. For some it’s all a bit ‘upside down’ for others a bit ‘inside out’, we are all trying to find direction.

Sculpture is a painting…

Colour, Egyptian, History, Making, Old Masters, Public Art, Steel

‘Night Watch’

‘The thinker’

‘Discus’

Frank Stella wisely noted that ‘a sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood up somewhere’, this statement can be justly applied to Sam Shendi’s work. His work explores the relationship between vertical and horizontal and the interplay of gravity whilst simultaneously exploring the human figure.

The Egyptian influences are clearly visible in his work, hidden symbolism of obelisks, sun-balls or eggs, also with the illumination in bright colours. The physicality of the material, the cut out steel is reduced to the essential parts, nothing is extraneous, and all is elemental. This refined approach to sculpture means Shendi has the artistic ability, the technical know-how to capture the very nature of things.

 Based on architectural forms and modernist morphology he brings in a twist of fun and playfulness. The final finished works take a fine line between representation and abstraction. Sam minimizes the human figure through structure, strong verticals set against horizontals. This pure joy of colour, this delight in simple and clean lines means that the work is infused with a gentle humour and is designed to give pleasure, whilst being founded upon serious geometric principles.

Sam is a sculptor who has a sense of history, schooled at the prestigious Helwen University of Fine Arts in Cairo and has been commissioned to produce large-scale pieces for public spaces. His work is rich in references and constructed with the assured precision of a consummate craftsman.

Ben Austin

Only Human

Colour, History, Philosophy, Soul searching, Steel

'Mr Hot'

‘Mr Hot’

'Mr Cold'

‘Mr Cold’

It was a rare moment last night when I slipped into the living room undisturbed and switched the television on and happened upon the last set of the Nadal v Rosol match. I was almost biting my nails. Could Rosol keep his cool? Could Nadal be any hotter and drip any more sweat into his towel to delay his devastating defeat? It was one of those moments when you knew history was in the making.

Rosol certainly could keep his cool. Composed he was serving a series of aces and returning down the line like he was merely on a practice of shooting targets. The 100 ranked Czech didn’t seemed phased by the centre court limelight or the ‘winner’ opposing him. We can often put barriers in front of us, be it other people or other ideas that prevent us from being able to overcome our own hurdles and reach the dream. We can all control our emotions if we put our mind to it. We can keep our cool under pressure and we can temper our ‘hot headed-ness’ when we need to. We can so easily put ourselves down thinking that ‘other’s are better’ but we are all only human. Rosol is that proof that even in adversity one can rise to the challenge of a great opponent and steal the show. Rosol so aptly put it in his post play interview, that his opponent was, after all, ‘only human’.

Being Egyptian

Colour, Egyptian, History, Making, Mother and Child, Old Masters, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching, Steel

“Being Egyptian, I can never quite shake the legacy of my country’s history. Durability and beauty are very important to me.”

‘Mother and Child’

When you see my husband’s work and make the connection he is Egyptian you can see the Egyptian influence in his work. The obilisque ideas, the geometric shapes, the pyramids! The strength and power behind the works. One of the reasons why the ancient Egyptian artefacts have lasted perhaps better than their Roman counterparts is because the Egyptian ones are solid. Solid in that there are no gaps, between the bodies and the arms, for example. There is no space for the elements to radically erode the stone. This technique is very visible in my husbands’ work. This use of old techniques and method and recognition of the past is the philosophy behind the Young Master’s prize’s. Next week my husband is off on his travels to London again to put two pieces, this one above, in an exhibition and auction to raise money for this prize.

(On 18 June to 4 July, the Young Masters initiative is hosting a fundraising auction and exhibition at Rupert Cavendish Antiques, 610 King’s Road, London SW6. On 21st June, from 6.30 to 9.30pm they are hosting a fundraising reception and auction of selected works from the exhibition, to be hosted by Kate McKenzie, one of the Christie’s auctioneering team.)

I, on the other hand am not Egyptian. I am quintessentially English. However I do feel Egypt is in my blood. My first taste of it was when I was a student and had gathered my pennies and worked millennium Eve to afford the flight and travel around Egypt. excited and independent my journey there was an adventure in itself. I chose to be ‘bumped off’ the plane from Amsterdam to Egypt to gain a little more cash and naively failed to tell anyone what I was doing. After being put up in a hotel in Amsterdam and then due to fog, having to fly back to London followed by  delays at Heathrow, I was, therefore,rather late arriving in Egypt. Perhaps all would have been fine, except  I was being met by a fellow student and when I didn’t show at the airport phone my worried parents who couldn’t track me as I had boarded and flown out of Leeds successfully. So I almost filed as ‘a missing person’. Lesson learnt; always phone home.

However, the rest of my travel around Egypt was successful and once I had floated on a felucca on the Nile,  there was no stopping my return. I remember the dusk dusty departure, weeping for no apparent reason other than I had fallen in love with the land. Little did I know then that I would fall in love with an Egyptian in my small yorkshire village, marry and have two sons. We have since had a few trips there and back. With my eldest I had a substantial stay  for six weeks with my Sister in Law and a ‘real egyptian experience’…that’s another story.

For me, there are no borders and boundaries on the world. We can find a place so foreign that somehow feels like home. On a day-to-day level now we have little taste of Egypt when we listen to arabic music, when we cook Egyptian food, a few weeks ago when we had a blast of heat. In the evening it would smell a little like Egypt. These are the things that are missed, the smells, the sights, the sound and the sisters.

So, there is a little flavour for now. When we will physically return there who knows.. a country currently in change.

The Keyhole Family

Colour, Conceptual, Egyptian, History, Philosophy, Public Art, Relationships, Soul searching

‘The Keyhole family’

This sculpture of five pieces present five different emotions we all share, we all go through. Sometimes, we pass through them; sometimes we get stuck in them. Beyond our differences of shapes, colour, education we all share the similarity of emotion and experiences. The focus behind this collection is to highlight the similarity between all of us; whatever we try to hide or expose, admit or deny. The ‘keyhole’ symbolises our vulnerability and if someone manages to find the right key then they find our weakness.

I haven’t sat and written for a while as it has been so hot, too hot to do much!  These five little men making up The Keyhole family has been bought and now live in someone’s house. So I thought I had better write a little about them before the next generation are born. I had an image of these little men half buried in a desert like landscape being discovered after thousands of years and a new age of people or alien beings discovering them in the midst of desolation. Like archeologist discovering Egypt’s ancient treasures. What would ‘they’ understand about ‘us’. Cheerful, happy faces vibrant colours on the surface everything is alright. The individual design shows a deeper level of  thought displaying some of the issues of humanity we face.

Confused???

We get confused from time to time….

 Sweet Kiss

All of us sometimes relies upon the sweeter person within us and this person deserves a kiss!….

 Philosopher

Nations and cultures have built themselves on some words of wisdom and some of us chose it as a path….

Mr Hot  & Mr Cold

Represents our sexuality level and how this changes and how some people can control it like a tap….

The Journey to The Other Art Fair

Exhibitions, Galleries, History, Making, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching

‘Sam Shendi Sculptures. The Other Art Fair. May 2012

I had been anxious about taking my two small boys on the train to London by myself. Armed with a number of activity books, crayons and pencils and a picnic lunch to feed the train I was more than prepared. Catching the train back was a little more dramatic with 55 minutes to get a bus ride to Brixton and then an 18 minute tube journey to Kings Cross. Needless to say, with large rucksack on my back, pushchair with toddler in front and small boy holding my hand, we ran like we have never run before. As we jumped on the train the doors shut behind us and pulled off from the station. My face was beetroot. Red (like my last blog entry).

As I took my eldest to school on Monday morning in the car, I contemplated how we would get to school without it. In rural yorkshire I am so dependant on my car. Public transport in London was an adventure all by itself. Journeys take us to the destination and we see it as a means to an end but the adventure is often as much in the travel. It made me reflect on my husbands long journey to get to the point he was at, at The Other Art Fair this weekend. It has taken him almost 12 years to get the body of work he now has together.

With the insistence on using high quality material and with no external funding the financial side has taken a while. Along side, the development in his practice has also been a journey. Starting mostly with clay he manipulated this material to form his pieces. It was always costly to cast them one night  many perished in an almighty crash when the table they were on collapsed under the weight and shattered probably near on 50 clay works. This prompted a move into wooden shapes with small figures ( see earlier blog entries) and took a direction that made his works larger. Looking back these works were precursors to the pieces we have now, which almost mould together abstract shape and figure into one. Linking both the clay work and larger work together. With the final splash of colour we have the body of work which was shown at The Other Art Fair, London. What a success. The journey still continues with lots of exciting propositions and projects ahead.

Like in life the adventure is the journey you just have to focus on the present to make the most of it.