Who on earth was Anthony Bourdain?

collections, Philosophy, Soul searching, Uncategorized

Last Friday, towards the end of my month long self-imposed ban on social media (which I have not been very good at adhering to). I saw a dramatically written little square which caught my attention and thinking space. Grief. Weeping and outpouring. Someone had died.

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Widow, 2017 Rudimentary Collection. Sam Shendi

There were several posts about this apparent icon. Anthony Bourdain. I had never heard of him. Ignorant or not, whichever camp you are in. I had to look him up on the internet. A Chef. Some of the images and comments about him made me think of my husband in certain ways. The life experience and the stories. I hadn’t heard of his books or seen any of his TV shows. I wondered fleetingly, why there was such an outpouring of despair over one man whom people probably hadn’t even met, when thousands are killed, bombed, persecuted everyday.

There is often that collective overwhelming emotion when something tragic happens, shock, confusion, empathy and probably a whole host of other sentiments. A sudden awareness that life is fragile and nothing is permanent. If we can focus on being mindful in the moment and grateful, the more we can appreciate those precious moments and find the true meaning of being happy.

That very same Friday afternoon I found out my son’s year six teacher was leaving the school. I was shocked and saddened that my youngest son wouldn’t get the golden nuggets of teaching my eldest has received. Preparing him for secondary school with confidence, self belief and optimism. Whilst I know and I am sure there are lots of good teachers, some people are just irreplaceable. I also felt deeply dissapointed that my youngest sport-loving boy wouldn’t have this amazingly sporty teacher. Despite that, it’s a couple of years before my son would have been in her class and who knows what will happen between now and then. We could even move- who knows what can happen in that space of time. I related my strong and almost violent emotion about this news to what I had been reading that morning. I really had to try and sit with my feelings and find out why I was so emotional. It was almost  parallel, so who was I to judge someone else’s overt emotion. I was feeling the same and it wasn’t even death.

This piece entitled, ‘Widow’ captures grief. It suggests the female form and there is a strong femininity about the piece. For me it is my favourite of the Rudimentary collection. When I see this piece I am reminded of a friend, not only because she is a widow but because of a memory I have from when we were young. We were canoeing on the canal and a swan, protecting her nest swam up to my friend and started pecking at her. No matter how frantic and aggressive swans can be there is an elegance, tranquility and beauty about the swan. The arch of the neck hangs down in a graceful sorrow. In mythology the swan was sacred to Venus, goddess of love. Death is all the more tragic because of love. When we love something it is hard to let it go.

Departure is very different from death but perhaps a grief still the same. Yet change is enevitable and very much a part of life. In the end everything comes to an end.

Who was Anthony Bourdain? I didn’t know him but I think when someone dies, suddenly, tragically, at a point in time where we had pressumed no expectation of that passing away, it is wake up call to and/or for ourselves. A realisation and a reminder that we don’t know when we will take our last breath. It is a journey, actually the only certain one, one which we are most often ill prepared for.

When striving for success in a career in this earthly domain it can come at a cost. It seems it did for Bourdain. It often does for artists and I know it is often a struggle for my husband who sacrifices a lot for time in the studio. A creative life doesn’t exist in a straight line and there is a risk of the unknown. Jamie Aaron states in his 11 things highly creative people sacrifice for their art, “They sacrifice the life people told them they should have for a life they love, a life that is inspiring and thrilling. Because that’s the whole point. To create is a privilege, one that artists know not to take for granted. To deny a conventional life is a risk, but not as great a risk as to deny their heart.”

Serendipitously we watched Disney’s ‘Coco’ last night after a month of not watching television (we were a bit more successful at that abstention). The story was about the inhabitants of the land of dead, the unseen world depicted gloriously in this animation, being able to pass back over into the land of living for one day, if they have been remembered by tributes. The main character has to question ‘what form of legacy matters the most and whether our personal ambitions can successfully coexist alongside our commitment to loved ones’. The main song gives a message of how important it is to remember those that have passed away.

“Remember me, though I have to say goodbye
Remember me, don’t let it make you cry
For even if I’m far away, I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart
Remember me, though I have to travel far
Remember me, each time you hear a sad guitar
Know that I’m with you the only way that I can be
Until you’re in my arms again, remember me

Remember me, for I will soon be gone
Remember me, and let the love we have live on
And know that I’m with you the only way that I can be
So, until you’re in my arms again, remember me”

Life is a spiritual experience by the very nature of being conscious, by being aware. The sculptor’s work often explores the idea that the body is simply a vessel. We are essentially souls experiencing the world through the body. But the soul is unseen. So perhaps death is simply the end of the body in this world. The soul returns.

“For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.” Kahlil Gibran

 

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Shock, Sadness & Sculpture Parks

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What a week. A week last Monday, it was the Sculptor’s birthday and the boys and I had made more of an effort than we usually do. The sculptor not normally keen on birthdays and I find it almost impossible to buy for him. The boys and I had remembered at a trip to the garden centre he had admired the bonsai trees and it makes sense, a living miniature tree to sculpt. So we had that to give and a lazily bought cake. We all woke up happy and ready for the half term week ahead.

However, on that Monday morning we got a call from Egypt to say my Father-in Law was in the hospital and it wasn’t good. We looked at flights. We waited. My husband kept trying to phone but, my sister-in-law, in the hospital sat by her Father’s bedside wasn’t able to get good reception. Their Father wasn’t conscious enough for my husband to have a conversation anyway. The sculptor phoned his brother in Oman. It was becoming clearer that my husband’s Father would unlikely survive the day.

He passed away, on his son’s birthday.

A rollercoaster of emotions.

 

The week became a strange one. Shock at the suddenness of it all. It was always a fear that there wouldn’t be enough time to get there. A stark reminder that you just don’t know when death will knock at your door. We reflected on the boys last seeing their Gedo (Arabic for Grandad). They brought down their diaries which he had written in 3 years ago and done a little drawing. We felt anger that we didn’t go in December as we had hoped to. Resolved, that is just wasn’t meant to be. The sculptor took time off. We closed the shop. We stayed in as the clouds wept rain in communal tears. We rested. Spent time with the boys. Talked about life, death and afterlife. Then I took them to my sister’s for a pre-planned weekend away before school started again. We left the sculptor to the studio, re-open the shop and have some time to himself.

The Sculptor working in the studio. Wearing his hat in a way, similarly to how his Father did.

The Sculptor working in the studio. Wearing his hat in a way, similarly to how his Father did.

We had lovely time in Sheffield and the sun came out to cheer us up. On the Sunday morning, we rose early to take my sister and nephew to the train station, for their half term was just beginning and they were heading south to visit other family members. The boys and I headed home, stopping off to visit Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). The morning light was stunning in the serenely quiet landscape, as we were the first visitors to arrive. Always interesting to hear the boys, sons of a sculptor, talking about sculpture. James Turrell’s Skyspace ‘The Deer Shelter, is a place for quiet contemplation of what can go unnoticed, the heavens above’. We sat in the echoed chamber of empty space, eight feet below ground; we looked up to the new spring feeling sky. We questioned, what is sculpture? We discussed the materials and the process of casting.

 

I always get impressed when I see the scale of other sculptures in images, particularly of the YSP and despite visiting before this time I really noticed the quality of the material. In comparison, my husband’s work is such a perfect finish. He prides himself in the quality of his work. The colour, the shine, the surface, the smoothness. To the point you can not see, can not tell the hours of sanding, the hours of smoothing it down. The boys both said, ‘Baba is the best sculptor, his work should be here.” One day. We hope.

Sam Shendi with clay sculpted head - never cast.

Sam Shendi with clay sculpted head – never cast.

So we followed the arc of the weather, as all good Yorkshire folk do. From cold grey and weepy drizzle to signs of the new season. Spring is around the corner and an anticipation of a new tomorrow.

Sam Shendi with 'Alert' from the Mother and Child Collection, now in Graham's Gallery Johannesburg.

Sam Shendi with ‘Alert’ from the Mother and Child Collection, now in Graham’s Gallery Johannesburg.

Poem and a piece of sculpture

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‘Empty Face’ sculpture by Sam Shendi 2017. Only Human collection.

I stand and remember

I recite

I call for you

to recognise

to get closer

to find you

somewhere out there

in the vast

engulfed space

You have no face

I kneel and surrender

to you

to everything

I submit

and get stronger

shed all I desire

leave what most would chase

the human race.

For you.

Film clip of opening night

Exhibitions, Galleries, Uncategorized

Less is More

Philosophy, Uncategorized
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‘King and Queen’ (2016)

‘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.

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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.

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‘The Bench’ (2014)

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.

'The Bow'

‘The Bow’ (2012)

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.

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‘Isolated’ (2013)

Lost words

Uncategorized

 

Last week I got back into my writing and wrote a long post, ‘Less is more’, saved it to come back to in an attempt to re read and edit what I am writing and be a little more conscientious. I occasionally do this (not that often) and the saving system works fine. However, this time it has cleverly morphed the post I wrote the last week with one I had not ‘published’ yet written 6 months ago that was quietly sitting in the ‘draft’ file. I am not even sure how this has happened but the bulk of what I have written is lost into a virtual ether that I feel my brain can’t get back.

I sit here feeling frustrated about all the quotes I had sourced and the links to other things, it had the making of being a really good entry, I was sure. Lost. Made me think about something my husband had put up on one of his social media a few weeks ago. Ironically, someone commented that they wondered what Mrs Shendi thought. I was puzzled as to what they meant. Why were they interested in my opinion about what my husband does with his work?

I know the sculptor can grab a bit of clay at anytime and sculpt it into a head, so easily that it makes you think anyone can do it. With words, perhaps it should be as easy, to re-write something that has already been written. Will it be better rewriting it? At this moment it feels irretrievable, gone. Evaporated. Do writers create as easily as sculptors or is moulding words into a coherent piece of writing a different process?

The mindful meditation that I have been trying to work on this year reassures me that yes everything happens for a reason. There is a purpose as to why that piece of writing is not to be ‘published’. As I quietly, calmly sit here with the ‘serenity’ I am pursuing, a little cartoon image of me stopping like a 2-year-old and having a tantrum, going bright red with anger and frustration pops up in my mind’s eye. But it’s just not me. The only thing that seems to anger me at the moment is my boys not listening to me, and I am working on that because I think we all have selective hearing once in a while, especially when we are asked to do something menial like pick up a sock! So to take heed of my husband’s lesson. I can do it again.

clay-head-3“Since the time of the University until now, I have created so many portraits. Yet I always break them after I finish and recycle the clay. The same piece of clay that I used in this portrait has been recycled since 2008. I think I have made about 8 different portraits and somehow I stop and then the only thing I want to do is break it, instead of casting it. It feels as though if I were to cast it and have it around me in the studio, it would be as though everything I made afterwards would look like it. These days I could stay 2 years without creating one portrait. I just get a feeling that my hands need to create a portrait. The more I let my hands decide to create the sculpture, the quicker and the easier it comes. The point is, I was never frightened to break it after the hard work because I always say to myself I can do it again.”clay-head-1

Dedication

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In memory of those who risk their lives for others.

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‘Lifeboat’ 2016

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Dedicated to those real unsung heroes, men and woman who step out into the unknown to save another soul.lifeboat-2

No one can say with certainty what will happen to us in our life.

A Thousand clichés

Everyday is a gift

Live your life to the full

Live until you die

Don’t take life for granted

Be courageous to live:

honestly,

passionately

positively

Constantly improving

Being a child of the 80’s I remember the theme tune to a programme called Record breakers, ” Dedication is what you need.” If you want to be the best… There are so many definitions to the meaning and I have put a link on the word which goes into that idea.

The sculptor made this piece thinking of those who chose to step out into the unknown or even the known and save others. He had an experience on a boat as a child but the memory of it was brought back, seeing images of the boats with refugees.

My husband is dedicated in his practice. He lives and breathes to create.

I love this image below, it’s so different from the images above and visually shows us how sometimes it is good to get a different perspective on things.

“Sometimes it’s hard to just keep going but dedication is moving forward without giving up no matter what.”

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Reduced and Revelatory Human Figures by Sam Shendi

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I have discovered the re-blog button and the perfect post to do so on. So let us see if this has worked…

On Art and Aesthetics

Sam Shendi

Carefully situated between ‘representation’ and ‘abstraction’, the candy-coloured figures of Yorkshire-based Egyptian-born sculptor Sam Shendi easily resemble children’s toys. Made of steel and aluminium, they are minimalistic projections of human bodies and states of mind – executed in paints that shine blood red, cartoonish lemon, ultraviolet and pumpkin orange.

Sam, who graduated from the Helwan University of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1997, whittles down physical structure and mental orientation so that he can – through simplicity – magnify a particular emotional or intellectual expression.

His bright and joyful pieces are vessels or containers that disclose hidden truths. They are laconically titled: “Atlas”, “Signature”, “Mother and Child”, “Eve”, “The Sperm”. Thematically, they remain universal – accessible to all despite differences of taste, age or cultural background. Highly inventive, cool and monumental, these are works of art that will only escalate in value to staggering amounts over the coming years and decades.

Sam with…

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Starting the year with serenity

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I always feel the December holidays are hibernation and a time for slowing down. I hit against it every year but this year was more resigning to it. However, 2017 has begun and already a week passed, time stops for no one.

It hasn’t been the best of starts to the year for one reason and another. Some trivial and some profound. Yet I am hopefully 2017 will be a good year.

Today the rain outside is relentless and as we drove to school this morning the eldest said it still felt dark. Here it is a gloomy dismal day and it though it doesn’t totally reflect my mood, there is a stillness needed.

So I post some stunning images in black and white, sombre and shadows and think about serenity.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

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‘Hammer head’ in progress at the studio (2016)

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Boys, Barnsley and beyond.

Exhibitions, Galleries, Uncategorized

Friday afternoon I took the boys out of school and headed down to Barnsley, it was busy on the roads but according to my phone we were in good time. The boys had snacks in the back but my youngest wasn’t happy with egg sandwiches as they would make him smell he grumbled. This is the boy who eats enough eggs to warrant me having a chicken farm. My eldest pointed out the sign for Barnsley but ‘no’ I said with trusty faith in my technology, we were coming off at the next junction. So we finally came off the motorway and  into some traffic works and something didn’t feel quite right. So I pulled in at a garage and looked at my phone. Somehow, and I have no idea how this happened I was heading to the wrong postcode. Fortunately still in the Barnsley area but I had over shot and we were much further south than we needed to be. So I had to turnaround and head back 20 min north with only 5 minutes until opening time. My eldest who usually joins in with my panic with sound effects was surprisingly ultra supportive in my panic. Reminding me that it was all ok, that we were all ok and we would still get there. That everything was going to be alright. It was a good little test for me. I knew we didn’t need to get there at 4pm on the dot but I do like to get to places on time and it was frustrating. Trying to keep calm I reminded myself to think that for whatever reason we had been sent on a little extended tour getting frazzled wasn’t going to help. It was getting darker, and busier driving into the one way system of the town centre so my tension did increase a little. We found parking easily enough and found the gallery. Only 15 min late.phew and not overly stressed. So by the time I walked in I really needed a moment to compose myself as I then faced this:
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film-exhibit

It was amazing to see the projection of the video, the black and white photos of the process, and into a space with all 10 glorious sculptures together, with clean white walls and fantastic lighting to set them off. The boys took pictures and their sketchbook around, our youngest a little more keen than the eldest unusually so. The eldest appearing to showing small signs of transforming into a little teenager.

There were just enough people there for the private view to make it intimate and for us to talk to the people who had made the effort to come along. The Civic has some lovely interactive activities for children if you can make it whilst the show is running. We have already seen a few more press articles and photographs which are stunning, more of which you can see on The Sculptor’s Wife Facebook page. or this one below is good, if you have managed to stay off the world of Facebook.

press

I love the idea of transformation. We all have the ability to change. I think winter is the time to prepare for transformation. This morning the scenery on my way to the shop was stunning. The trees in their bare winter glory stood like silhouettes against a hazy, sleepy, wintry landscape of greys and blues with a bright sun lighting up the valley making it twinkle. The land retreats into a cold crisp coating. We can retreat to contemplate the year past and marinate in stillness on how we deal with things in the moment. So, we can be calmer and focused in those times of stress and panic be it small or big, when you get lost on the road or in life. Using that stillness to have the ability to see beyond the discomfort of the moment and know that ultimately everything is going to be alright.