The human stepping stone

collections, Philosophy, Relationships
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‘Stepping Stone’ 2017 sculpture by Sam Shendi. Part of The Only Human Collection

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.

STEPPING STONE FRONT

I love the angle of this image, the piece does look more female, perhaps more vulnerable and the elongated head more like an Egyptian Queen.

 

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.

sTEPPING STONE BACK

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That’s a bit awkward

collections, Relationships

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This piece sums up my three Shendi boys who all have tendencies to lean towards being awkward rather than compliant. I think I am compliant. So why am I surrounded by the ‘awkward’? But when does awkward become just being yourself? Should we have to tip ourselves towards someone else’s preference just to make things easier or more comfortable for ourselves or for them?.

My husband made this piece in the knowledge that he can be awkward. Meaning that he has very clear ideas, things are nearly always black and white to him. Often that doesn’t always fit in with those around you. In some ways that is easy to deal with, you know where you are or what a person’s preferences are. Sometimes it is just difficult. The piece itself looks difficult, defining gravity it makes you feel a little bit awkward looking at it. Yet it is still stunning and the fact that it does balance is the genius of the sculptor. I guess being awkward has it’s trade offs.

If you are easy either way about something it can be more straightforward to fit in with those around you but you can easily then drift along not really doing what you really want to do. As you can tell I have no black and white idea on which is the better way to be. Perhaps, that ultimately is the point. We should be more accepting of others opinions, ideas and view points without having to have them agree with us in order to get along. I have found this very interesting in living with someone who often has a very different viewpoint from myself. Either because he does or he’s just being awkward!

 

Collateral Beauty

Mother and Child, Relationships, Soul searching
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“Memories of my lost child” 2016. Sam Shendi

I have been struggling to write about this piece mainly because I have no experience of losing a child; for which I am thankful for. Nevertheless, it is my greatest fear and in some kind of cathartic practise when I embarked on writing a piece of fiction two years ago (which amounted in a huge number of words now sat festering in my computer’s memory) I made my central theme the idea of losing a child. With the idea of finding some sort of peace and resolve afterwards. However, I still feel a fraud and so perhaps that is why I can’t finish it.

Recently we watched a film, which reminded me that there is no original thought and my idea had almost already been explored-so good at making excuses. The film didn’t get good reviews but I loved it.  The idea of time, death and love personified. That our children come through us (I think that idea was probably taken from Gibran : see below) and that when someone dies, “be sure to notice the collateral beauty.”

On Children –Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Something traumatic in loosing someone through death, especially when they are young may take a lifetime to understand if ever. The concept of the film though is that in that dark and unhappy place there was still love. The beauty is that love continues even after and through death. Death reminds us that we need to be present in every moment because we have no control over our last.

I started to think of other meanings for this piece of work, not just “The memory of my lost child” to death but loosing a child just for a moment. I have experienced that and it is scary enough. It is hard to stop all the fears and worries that flood the mind. It led me to thinking about when parents feel they have lost their child to something else or someone else or somewhere else and how in the mind of the parent they think they have ‘lost’ their child. The complexity of the parent-child relationship is that they are so dependant on you and at each stage you are aware of them “moving away” becoming more independent. As a parent the need may seem to disappear but  the role changes and continually shifts.

The inspiration for this piece for my husband was a strong awareness of the impact the death of his cousin had on his Uncle. The story is tragic and traumatic causing a ripple within the family. This piece is a dedication of that event in my husband’s life but one that resonates with so many for their own individual reason.

However ‘whole’ you might appear the loss means there is always part of you missing. You are missing someone and that has an effect on your whole being.

lost child shafow

We are only human after all

collections, Colour, Relationships

Most of the work my husband sculpts forms part of a collection, a group of sculptures under the same title. The latest finished collection is, “Only Human”, born from ideas taken from human phrases. Phrases we use in conversation that has then shaped the form of these vessels. Human beings are fallible, we are not perfect and we can only strive for improving ourselves.  Always  makes me think of the song, “Human” by Rag’n’bone, as the boys did a Viking song based on the rhythm and we had the song going around our head constantly. ” We are only human after all, don’t put your blame on me.” Human beings are no longer a subject of focus on a daily basis and in many ways have become devalued. Alex Rodgers wrote a book with the same name about the current issues and problems young people face in today’s society.

Each sculpture is created as a human figure whilst simultaneously acting like a canvas which if stretched out would give you an abstract colourful painting, showing that emotion has a colourful impact on human energy and action. These pieces are a frozen body movement which has been shaped by the emotion to allow you to understand that each one of them is only a presentation of who you are. The colour e describes the emotion hidden within the piece and is a completion of the actual concept. Our emotions are so powerful, if we look back at the past mankind uses this emotion to direct not just thousands but millions.

All these pieces have been hand carved using various materials and then painted. Many people can have a create talent, they can draw, paint, take a photography or work with clay or wood. It is something again to bring something out from an imagination of an idea or concept and one in which you are telling a story. In an attempt to be more organised the next series of blog posts I will go through each one in turn, but for now you can think of your own  titles for the pieces.

Only Human. Sam Shendi. 2017.


Why the long face, soul so beautiful?

Connections, Philosophy, Relationships

Soul so beautiful

Oh soul, so light, so beautiful

This world is just too much for you

Your feet are treading softly

On broken glass

The pain seeps from your skin

Your eyes flicker of the sadness within

As you clamber to hold

on to the day

The mind is a wild garden

over grown, lost, forgotten

bird songs echo of

the silent tears you weep

‘Long Face’, Sam Shendi at Graham’s Gallery Johannesburg

The Date

collections, Relationships

I looked to the stars and promised to stop searching and start focusing on myself. Two days later, May 19th, I remember the date, there was a knock on the front door of my parents house. I walked down the stairs and there he stood. Almost like a prayer answered. He was designing the bathroom and we all sat at the dining room table talking to my parents about bathroom taps. I have a vague recollection of bringing down my art folder and showing him the cards I was working on. Think he had been expecting a 15 year old when my parents had said they had a daughter at home.

It was pouring down with rain so my Dad offered him a lift back to the shop and he asked him why I looked sad. My Dad told him and he said something along the lines of, I’ll look after her. He then went into the showroom (we didn’t own one at the time) and told the owner he had just met his wife. That was fourteen years ago next month.

Today we have been married 11 years. How he knew, I don’t know. He knows things like that. Strong gut instinct, where as I have less of a gut instinct. Yin and Yang we are. Funny how we remember significant dates. Capsules of time. I hear a lot about people having date nights. We don’t do date nights. It’s aways a date. We seem to be in a perpetual flow of living, talking, laughing, walking through this journey of life, art and love.

The style and theme of this new collection started way back then in those early days. He made a medium sized wooden one and hand painted it in our flat. It was so different from all his clay work at that time. I loved it, I always said it was the best. We then had it outside our house for years but of course it couldn’t sustain the weather conditions. Once we had the studio he made 3 large ones from steel. One sold through Mayfair and another through Saatchi online to Panama, we had interest in the third but they chose something else instead. I always jump up and down saying I knew it was special. Now we have a collection of these, a reminder of how things start and grow. Like a date.

The Date (2016) Sam Shendi

Creative Education

Colour, Connections, Public Art, Relationships
family portrait

Family Portrait (2016)

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.

right brainEducation 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.

Heads together

Connections, Relationships, Soul searching
heads-and-sculptor

‘The rough collection’ (2016) Sam Shendi

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.”

sketch

Sketch by Sam Shendi

mr-blue

Mr Blue (2016) Sam Shendi

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.

‘Shelter’, a new piece in the Motherhood collection

collections, Mother and Child, Relationships
Shelter 7

‘Shelter’ by Sam Shendi

This is simply one of the most stunning pieces my husband has made, though I think that every time he finishes one.

In Maslow’s paper , ‘The Theory of Human Motivation” he proposed that healthy human beings have needs which he arranged in a hierarchy. Physiological and safety needs being at the bottom of the pyramid indicating more primitive or basic than others (such as social and ego needs). If we think of those physiological and safety needs for a child as  breathing,  food and water, place to sleep, security of the family, health and place to live we might group that under a heading ‘Shelter’.

Shelter 1

A mother’s first instinct is to bring her child to her chest, cover them and protect them from the world around. A shelter is a building that provides cover. Some mothers in the world are looking after children with no building or structure to protect their offspring. Mothers are the only shelter. The curvature of this piece is as though the mother is moving her body to be a physical shelter.

Shelter 3

Shelter 8

The way the lights and the shadows fall enhance the beauty of this piece but the almost crumpled position of the woman’s body displays her potential discomfort, the sacrifice and the perseverance to keep the babe protected.

Where we are more fortunate to have those essentials of a roof over our heads with warmth and food, we start to shelter our children from the reality of the world around us. How much should we do that? Can children become over protected so much so that they can’t function in society because it is too harsh a reality. These questions are starting to whirl round my mind as my eldest, I am observing, is starting to leave those years of innocent childhood behind him. How do we persevere the innocence and wonder of those formative years without restricting all that the world offers. Should we shelter our children from the inevitability of the environment we live in today?

Shelter 9

Shelter 10

Practicality and the art of tidying

Colour, Connections, Exhibitions, Galleries, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching

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.

storage 2

 

storage 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Today, the sculptor was up early (3.30am) again London bound as we have excitedly sold ‘Madame Butterfly’. Then he and his right hand man are heading on to deliver the remainder of the calligraphy collection to the Hannah Pescher sculpture gardens.

hp picture

Some of the calligraphy collection heading to Hannah Pescher

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.

madame b2

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.

madame b

Kimono Section of ‘Madame Butterfly’