This piece is classy and humorous at the same time, I think. The concept is the idea that people can use other people as ‘stepping stones’ to get ahead.
We had been so hopeful at the end of 2017 that a commission work could be a ‘stepping stone’ for progression and it felt a huge blow that we were unsuccessful. I recently read that, ‘the gift of disappointment is to bring us into reality so we don’t get stuck in the realm of how things might have been”. It was really a learning curve for us both, whilst my husband had the expectation of how life would be as a consequence he also has the ability to quickly move on and is undeterred. On the other hand, I don’t have the same future vision but I find it much harder to remain so positive and inspired after experiencing that kind of disappointment. Perhaps because I am the ‘supporting’ artist rather than the lead character in this quest of ours. I was thinking that this piece is very symbolic of the issue within the movie world at the moment.
The recent outing of men abusing their position to allow woman to get ahead or prevent them from doing so in films. My husband thinks the whole industry is built on it and so how can it really change or be made into anything with ‘morals’. However, it highlights the point about how people can abuse their position, these men are powerful and can influence and have the ability to make or break the careers of aspiring filmmakers and artists, particularly young women who are trying to make their way in the industry.
But this piece doesn’t just need to represent woman. It could be the idea of parents pushing their children as a ‘stepping stone’ towards something or colleagues competing between each other for a promotion, governments using people as a stepping stone to push through policies. This is a visual story of the way people use others to move their own lives forward and use the shoulders of someone else to get ahead.
I have caught some beautiful days this summer. Wandering. Walking. Captivated by the clouds and flowers this year. Always looking up for some loftier inspiration. I dart around like the swallows in my pursuit for easier homemaking, exercise, minimising and reducing waste, writing and looking after our business and the boys. Reminded recently about the need to be grateful for the place where we are at, both mentally and physically. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Sometimes grounding ourself in the importance of seeing something through, brings us back to earth.
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ is a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. I have really begun to tap into this idea of simplicity. It began last year when we cleared out the attic space in an attempt to start converting it into a inhabitable space. Full, it was of boxes, of my things. So I started to de-clutter and was recommended the book, ‘Spark Joy’ by Marie Kondo. Since then I have delved online into the world of Minimalism with countless sites and support groups. It is a work in process and I still have a way to go, being a natural hoarder. Tied into this is also the realisation of how much waste we produce and in minimising somethings I am also looking at how to reduce my own waste.
Before you get any ideas of me producing no rubbish, I have to point out that we are still producing endless amounts of blank bin liners full of waste every week and that is what shocks me. Shocks me into action… a little bit. So, I start with myself. I am trying to be consistent in making my own dairy-free milks to reduce the number of tetrapacks. Our milkman delivers the milk in glass bottles which I rinse and return but my eldest and I are no longer having cow’s milk. Here in lies a little problem, of how you get everyone onboard in these journeys.
My husband’s work has always been around the human condition, the human figure. In many ways, if we think about form it is hardly surprising that sculptors have always been preoccupied with the human body. ‘Stripping away to the most simplistic form’ is what has become integral to his practise as a sculptor.
Clement Mont said “Very often people confuse simple with simplistic . The nuance is lost on most’. Within art in the 1960’s minimalism was about “painters and sculptors avoiding overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works.” My husband is referencing this movement in many ways, perhaps in use of colour and form but using it as a platform for storytelling and communicating deep human messages. In a time when, globally, nationally and individually we seem to be hankering after meaning.
Hans Hoffman who was pivotal in abstract expressionism stated that, “The ability to simplify mean to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”.
In the art of de-cluttering your possessions, this rings true. We live in a world of consumerism and a society driven on the belief that acquiring possessions and wealth will lead to greater happiness. A study from Princeton University shows that too much disorganized stimuli simply overwhelms the brain. I am finding that getting rid of the excess is leading to more time, more space and more opportunities. Only at the start of my journey, I am already feeling the benefits, peeping through like the snowdrops beginning to emerge from the frosted soil.
I am finding my ability to the house work a more pleasurable process and less time-consuming. If we take pleasure in the things we do have, we can value their role and be less wasteful in what we consume. Although it is not to become another thing we aim to achieve just to keep up with others, or put pressure on ourselves for perfection perhaps.
‘Nature was pleased with simplicity’ Issac Newton believed and that ‘Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity and not the multiplicity and confusion of things. With the world around us being a noise of confusion, the art world should be responding by giving us something beautiful, simple yet telling a visual story and reminding us what is means to be human. Slightly bias, but I think my husband’s sculptures do just that.
I was driving the other day and saw a heron flying fairly high with great purpose away from the river running along my left side. It made me wonder where it was going, did it know where it was going?
Birds are featuring in the new Giant collection which my husband finished and already has taken down to London in one of his there and back in a day trips this weekend. On Friday they went to collect all the pieces from Doddington Hall in Lincoln and that was a full 12 hour day and then they were up at 4am to head down with these giants to Berkeley Square House. It took hours of driving and literally half an hour installation. It would be great to see them flying through the air in hoists on helicopters like in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, that would save travel time! It’s great to get them straight out of the studio into a location though. These birds are not in flight though, they are perched on pieces which have great philosophy but before I get my head around the words, I will leave you to look at the images and decide for yourselves.
This month has been our ‘retreat’, cyber hibernation and other withdrawals to create time for spiritual concentration. This has not left much room for words. I posted on Monday images only, partly because I so many photographs there was not much more space for letters. Also, my whole being has slowed down and no words were appearing. I was having a blank.
On my morning walk wearing my ridiculously large ‘insect like’ sunglasses to keep out the pollen, the clouds really caught my attention. Somehow the lenses were acting like a contrast heighten button so the voluminous cotton wool like clouds looked even more impressive. I was thinking about cotton wool and how the pads you can get don’t have the same aptness for thinking of a cloud. The poetic line, ‘wander lonely as a cloud’, wandered into my mind, however the sky today was far from the image of a lonely cloud. It was a gathering for a cloud event, like a stack of candy floss before the opening of a fair. It’s magic when you can see the clouds making a shape of something. This made me think of the sculpture and his talent for making shapes out of things. He said recently that he has no imagination but a storage unit of ideas. In interviews he is often asked the question, ‘Where do you get inspiration from?’ Living with him I can verify that there seems to be an endless supply to ideas. I have never known him to have to think of an idea or to have to search or research for inspiration. He never has a blank. Creativity sits in his mind like the clouds over Yorkshire.
Clouds move, sometimes you can see it slowly, sometimes fast but it is a rare thing to have a cloudless sky over our little village on the edge of the valley. In all this cloud contemplation, I noticed to the left it was a smattering of shades of grey where as to my right it was a different scene, pure blue burst appeared in patches hinting at the suggestion of blue skies behind. If you showed someone who had never seen the sky before my view to my left they would be surprised if you said sky is blue. Sky seems even more rarely these days to be blue here in the North of England. We know that beyond the clouds is a vast expanse of ‘blue’ that we can’t see. In each of the ten sculptures for the ‘Mother and Child’ exhibition the sculptor has used blue. Colour is the key to my husband’s sculptures. They don’t merely serve an aesthetic or decorative quality, they are the meaning behind the piece. The colour is crucial to the philosophy as well as adding a lusory quality.
Colour does evoke feelings and emotions. Why does a blue sky make us feel happier than a grey and white one? We often think that are emotions are influenced by external factors when actually it is more often our thoughts that create our feelings. We are often clouded, pardon the pun, in our vision by what we see before us and are unaware of the unseen, the design behind it all. Again thinking of the sky at night, I love it when it is clear and we can see a few of the twinkling stars. But when I look upwards and see just those few stars, I remember when I had the opportunity to camp in the Serengeti, many moons ago and the awe and wonder at the littering of lights above which was a huge realisation as to how much we aren’t always able to see.
As I spend this time in spiritual practise I focus on how all these marvellous signs in nature indicate to me a creator. I am acutely aware that we don’t all share this view. We were, ‘made in tribes so that we may learn from one another’. We just don’t tend to focus on the learning and veer more towards the misunderstanding. There are so many paths up the mountain and everyone takes their own time and twists off the path. For some, their view-point may be a bit like the grey cloudy sky. They may be faced with a sheer rock face with no possible foot holes so the view of the mountain is obscured and to them non-existent. As with viewing the sculptures, behind what lies in front of us there is often a deeper meaning.
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.
Many people I spoke to in March had a miserable month. With the change of the clocks, lighter evenings and daffodils and lambs appearing perhaps April will bring a solution, a peace and a resolve. Listening to the radio the other day, the broadcaster said she had observed as she got older she was acutely more aware of the seasonal change. Perhaps there is truth in that, as we grow older we become more in-tune with natures cycles and the awareness that everything perishes and then there is life. I can’t fully remember what and why I was telling the boys the other day, that sometimes we have tests or difficulties and then we meet people who are having greater tests and we are reminded and humbled into realising our own blessings.
I feel that too at the moment. I feel March was a testing month. I am constantly being reminded that I need to develop greater patience and calm. I think part of my personal turbulence has been to do with sorting out boxes from the attic in an attempt to de-clutter and make more space. It is a strange process and looking back at letters in boxes from as far back as 1986 re-lives a little of your own personal history and also reading others stories from past. I have come to realise with my husband’s wisdom; that the past is the past and no need to be relived. Inspired by an American guy who has just totally reduced his possessions to 111 that he is carrying on his back. I am determined to reduce the amount of ‘just stuff’ I have. Although, I am still unsure how to get rid of much of my memorabilia. How much do our possessions take over us?
I usually only post images of finished works, yet sometimes I think it is good to see the process. This also is such a different technique but shows the skill of my husband’s hands. When I first saw this piece I said, it reminds me of William Tell. Who is William Tell, my husband asked. I couldn’t remember just the story of the boy with the apples on his head. So I did a little research. He was the archer and the boy his son. He was asked to bow down to the leader of the area and he refused. So he was asked to shoot one of his arrows through an apple positioned on top of his son’s head. He successfully shot the apple. The leader noticing a second arrow asked what it was for. Tell, said if he had missed and killed his son the second arrow was for the leader. The swiss fable became a story of liberty and freedom.
As I try to free myself from my attachment to letters and souvenirs, I wonder how much possessions actually weighs us down, literally and metaphorically, some how. In general as a society we seem to attach more sentimentality to our things now more than some people do to other people.
My husband generally purchases more than I do but he never gets attached to it. Even his work. This masterful sculpture looks like it should be cast in bronze or marble. He started talking about colouring it in ways that match his current work. For example, the entire piece gloss black with just the top of the apple in red, or different coloured sections on the head…..
However, these images are not only the process but now the memory. The piece no longer exists. ‘How could you do that,?’ I asked my husband, as he showed me images of the head looking like a claw had swiped through it. ‘It only took me a couple of hours to make, it’s a practice. Not something to remain’. He is also a bit wary of making realistic portraits. It looks like days, months of work but it isn’t for my husband. He is fast and precise. Making something ‘real’ looking isn’t what his current practise is about. This was just to keep his hands in clay, just a process. Practising.
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.