After posting my last blog entry I realised I had left out a really important image of a piece which sums up the ‘Less is more idea’. So to follow on from Friday’s post:
When asked to choose a favourite piece the sculptor often settles for this piece; inspired by two of his favourite artists Rodin and Mondrian. After making this piece he realised he was influenced by both artists and the architecture of the 60’s. “The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and joinery are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”
I think these words echo truth concerning this sculpture and many of the others, “no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”
This piece is entitled ‘The Thinker’, harps back to the old masters but brings a unique contemporary style for today. It combines the fascination of the piece, ‘The Thinker’ by Rodin and the abstractions of Mondrian.
Ad Reinhart remarked, “The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more. The eye is a menace to clear sight. The laying bare of oneself is obscene. Art begins with the getting rid of nature.
The use of colour is with purpose, the bright yellow represents the spark of an idea, a light bulb moment enhancing the idea of ‘The Thinker’. So whilst this piece strips back all the details of the human body, it still provokes thought, meaning and symbolism.
The ancient Greeks told tales of giant beings called Titans. The sculptor and I might have been cleverer to call this collection The Titans but perhaps ‘The Giant collection ‘is more straightforward. One Titan’s name was Atlas, he was the leader in a war against Zeus, the sky and thunder-god Zeus. After the defeat of the titans Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of the earth and hold the heavens on his shoulders to prevent the earth and sky resuming their primordial embrace.
There has been a misconception that Atlas carries the world on his shoulders as classical sculpture often shows Atlas holding the celestial sphere but it has been misunderstood to be a globe. Atlas therefore embodies the celestial axis and is the personification of endurance as he was a sentence to hold up the sky for eternity.
In later myth he finally turns to stone and becomes what we know now as the Atlas Mountains. Around 500 years ago Mercator made a book of maps and named it an Atlas, Keeper of the World.
In classical European architecture an, ‘atlas’ is a support sculpted in the form of a man, which takes places of a column. Named ‘Atlantes’ these express extreme effort in their function. Head is often bent forward to support the weight of the structure above them across their shoulders.
Here, in this contemporary version of Atlas, Shendi depicts the head bent forward but in an almost ironic twist we see across this titan’s shoulders a collection of birds.
This sculpture depicts the notion that today we carry a weight on our shoulders, which often isn’t as heavy as we might believe. Most of humanity share similar experiences and memories that can weigh us down. The use of colour in this piece represents memories and emotions. The figure here represents us, the birds our problems, which have become larger than the reality of them.
Birds perched together decreases the risk of predators and they usually choose places to roost, which are safe. The size of this giant hasn’t prevented the birds from staying. We associate ‘giants’ with the idea that they have power or a physical presence over us. In this case the birds are the more empowered presence. Just as we can sometimes not shake off our worries or the past, this giant man is unable to shake off the birds.
“That great giant, Atlas, whose shoulders bear the circling sky.” Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 172. Birds often circle the sky following migratory patterns using the sun to navigate by day and the stellar compass at night which depends on the constellations. So they have a need for this ‘Atlas god of astronomy and navigation.
So this piece is heavy in it’s symbolism, rich in its references to classical art and architecture and also brings to modern society a philosophical idea and message that sometimes we need to let go of the heavy burden which weighs us down. Especially here in the ‘western’ world where our problems by comparison should be fleeting.
Well, I was wrong about having little sleep on Tuesday night. The sculptor slept through the alarm. Although that still meant only 5 hours sleep. A sudden sitting bolt upright, duvet off the bed and expletives woke us both up an hour later than expected. Unfortunately, this had a knock on effect of meeting rush hour on the motorway. Added to that road blocks and diversions around London they arrived at destination- Double Tree Hilton almost 2 hours later than schedule.
Having moved from Cartwright Hall where I have worked, ‘The Bench’ is now sat opposite Canary Wharf where quite by coincidence I did a work experience placement when I was 14 at The Sunday Mirror Magazine. Anyway that isn’t the point. The photographs as I thought, look amazing. The sculpture filling our studio now looks dwarfed by the booming business buildings behind. The sculptures colours are stunning and make it stand out against the city backdrop. Like colourful buildings themselves with the curve simply suggesting a head resting on shoulder. a reminder of how important it is to rest, be with the ones we love and sit and reflect. Most poignantly placed opposite London’s major business district and financial centre.
The story of the journey doesn’t end there but for now, enjoy the pictures ….
Language is symbolic. Words are symbols. Even our own signature becomes a symbol of ourselves. This new piece entitle ‘Signature’ is one of a collection in which my husband is focusing on the outline of the human figure, it is almost the abstraction of form. His own work becoming progressively more ‘abstracted’. Following a contour of the body producing a language of its own rather than creating a solid object. It is as I have mentioned before like a cursive writing style, a sculptural calligraphy. I have started reading around the subjects I am writing about in an endeavour to improve my writing and think about what direction to take my writing in.
So I have finished ‘Notes from an Exhibition’ by Patrick Gale I borrowed from the library alongside reading ‘The inspired heart’ by Jerry Wennstrom. On the subject of libraries we are lucky to have a library pull up practically in our back yard which means we visit every two weeks and drag a bag piled high with children’s books back up the path. We have done this since my eldest was a baby and consequently they both enjoy sitting and turning the pages, looking at the pictures absorbing the details. It is one of few things I am proud of instilling in them, if it lasts! I enjoyed taking along my long list of books I had researched that might assist in my own creativity. However, they only had the one for now. The library is under threat though with ideas of community led ones. Why funding for libraries and librarians should be pulled makes no sense at all. We still need real books and real spaces.
Abstract art a way forward or a dead-end? was my first art essay title I wrote during A-levels (many years ago) I loaned it to a student I worked with once and never got back which is a shame, it was before the digital days and so I no longer have any record of it. Perhaps it is no bad thing, it would just be sat in a plastic tub in the attic. Although there were some photos of my visits to galleries including my 17-year-old self stood proudly next to large Rothko. Currently ‘Whitechapel’ has an exhibition entitled ‘The adventures of the black square” a journey of abstraction, which if I could get to I probably would go and visit, but I got a nice flavour of from the ‘misadventures’ blog link above and also listening to the director’s introduction. The exhibition follows four themes, utopia, architectonic, communication and the everyday. I definitely used to see abstract art as contemporary and new, as a progression “a springboard for the imagining of new tomorrows” and “freeing art from the dead weight of the real word”. As the director, Iwona Blazwick introduces, “Geometric abstraction influenced around the world and was crucially linked with politics and society,”
‘Abstraction’, whatever the word means has certainly influenced and is increasingly used in this ‘dehumanized digital age’ we live in. Now I wonder how far this abstraction has led us. For me, I feel I am going in a full circle with it, on a journey as I learn more about art and sculpture. My husband’s work offers a simple solution. Although the work is rarely as simple as it seems. It is the abstraction but with the humanity. It has the modernity in colour and the spirituality in meaning. I have started to think even more about words, the meaning and the choice of words. “Language is marvelous powerful tool” I heard this recently on the radio 4 programme ‘Life in Suburbia’. It is an important addition to abstract art, many people needing the addition of words to hang along side the ‘black square’ or the large canvases of pure colour.
So to add some words to this piece. To many it may still seem completely abstract, a wavy whirl of colour. Even if that is what you see, it is visually appealing, there is a harmony and a high aesthetic quality to the piece. It is still however, the contour of the human form. In this image above the ‘green’ forms the head and arm. The ‘red’ the back and leg. Sit and stare at this one a while and you may start to see it. The fact that each image above creates its own unique shadow and picture in itself is an art. Seeing it in reality in its true three-dimensional form adds to the experience. The image below shows it in situ and the realisation of the scale of it is perhaps enlightening, smaller than the blank white back drop suggests. My husband’s sculptures all have the will to grow and they would look so amazing on a huge scale in the centre of a town square or in the fields of a sculpture park. This is the next dream. In a world where we text and tweet and use words often devoid of meaning. This sculpture embodies meaning of living in the dystopian present.
Imagine a bird trying to find flight in the wind, constantly flapping until it finds a pocket of smooth space where it can glide. That’s what I feel motherhood is like at the moment. I occasionally spot other mothers in the same flap and know that we are all in this together flying around trying to spread our wings. I have a few frenzied hours in the morning from waking until I drop the boys at school and then when I pick them up until bedtime.
Last week the sculptor took this freshly painted and slightly changed ‘Mother and Child’ piece down to Hay Hill Gallery, London. The other two in the collection both sold and sent to new homes.
These trips away mean I am managing the showroom and boys, school and home. Juggling the ball(s) and balancing them- aren’t we all. Last week the van broke down on the motorway (not really the fault of the van I might add) it was freezing snowy cold weather on the return journey so the pieces had arrived safely and thankfully he made it home with not too much delay.
With a renewed sense of calm after my weekend without the boys, yesterday after looking after the showroom I took the boys home and started making a healing chicken soup for the boys full of coughs and colds whilst they painted and created in the space around me. This prompting me to pull out all the craft books and papers which were looking a hideous mess in one of the kitchen cupboards out on to the floor. All this seemed manageable knowing the sculptor wouldn’t come back in and trip over it. However, in the middle of this organised chaos the sculptor calls having settled into his hotel room after a train journey which has taken him quite literally all day to get there. As he starts going into detail about the state of the wall papered ceiling and berating the interior decor, my youngest is sprinkling the glitter on the floor, the eldest making yet another animal from card and glue dribbling it all over the kitchen table (desperate measures to have a pet). I am trying to put the rice on the stove and I can feel my newly topped up patience from the weekend child free starting to boil over along with the soup.
After abandoning the kitchen for stories and bedtime I decide not to go back down and stay in the clam of my room. I read too late into the night, get disturbed by endless coughing and get up to see if child is ok, administer cough syrup and kisses. We all wake a little later than usual having had little sleep. I descending to the kitchen which now looks a little like my impression of the studio the day before and I wonder if we all are a little naturally inclined to be messy. Creativity and everyday life in such opposition to the fine finished forms of the sculptures now situated in this clinically neat business entrance where they were delivered last week.
This post has been hovering in the save box for to long- I had completely forgotten I needed to upload the images.
The focus of the half term holiday came at the end when my husband gave a speech at Cartwright Hall alongside members of The Royal British Sculptor’s society (RBS) who came up from London to talk about public art and my husband’s piece in the park which won the Public Art Award FIRST@108 last year. It had been sat neatly in front of The RBS building in London for 8 months and in the summer moved to Lister Park where it is now being physically interacted with heavily by the local community.
This issue came up in discussion, about the placement of public art and public response to it. We have been through a whole gambit of emotions in our reaction to people climbing, jumping , sitting and scratching on all three of the pieces there. Ultimately though overriding any upset and anger, it is a great opportunity to have the work seen, interacted with and is a huge stepping stone and milestone in the journey. It was a gloriously sunny day and a great opportunity for those who had come to the talk to see the work outside.
I was so nervous for my husband as we hadn’t scripted anything and I was worrying if he would stumble, falter or ramble. In my unnecessary preoccupation with his preparation, I totally forgot to do what I usually do best and think about food. It was a lunchtime talk starting at 1pm and we arrived in the grounds at 12, I had a bag of cheddars and a satsuma each for the boys thinking that would keep them going after a late breakfast. However, I hadn’t anticipated how long we would stay the talk lasted an hour and a half and as there were a good 40 plus people there we had lots of conversations afterwords. So we were still there at 3.3opm and our youngest was practically passing out. ‘Where were the sandwiches??’ I had packed plenty for the big draw two days earlier but my mind just hadn’t moved passed the 1pm speech!
The boys sat beautifully and patiently whilst they listened to the talk and I was so proud of them and my husband. It was perhaps a good thing we hadn’t over rehearsed a speech, it was natural and humourous and he did really well at conveying what he wanted to say about his practice, the development of his style and the award he had won. It was a memorable day, next time I just need to remember some sandwiches.
NB: Exhibition Launch at Cartwright Hall this Sunday 30th November 1pm
The concept has so many levels to it. Entitled ‘The Bench’ it could be any combination of two people, sat for any number of reasons.
Bring to it what you will as a viewer.
Without going down to sad a route. I couldn’t help thinking of the Bill Withers song ‘Lean on me’: “Sometimes in our lives, We all have pain, We all have sorrow.” Feeling down or having low mood is something we can all relate to, all understand and all sympathise with. Clinical depression is something very different and there has been a lot of discussion over the last few days about it. “Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together” NHS. Recent events remind us that no matter how rich or famous one is depression does not discriminate. We need to keep in mind that on a human level we can only hope to be there for people, to help, support, listen and care when they need it and when they think they don’t want it. To be there for someone as non-judgemental as possible and understand and accept people for who they are. It is the very essence of human nature to be a shoulder for someone or to have a shoulder to lean on.
It isn’t what this piece is about though, there can be so many different interpretations. The colours are so joyful and have a reason to them. But for now, so proud. This feels an amazing picture on so many levels. Mostly to have a sketch realised into a sculpture furthermore then to have it installed in a public place. This is a sculptors dream and now a reality. A real sense of achievement.
It has been a welcome break to be offline and unplugged for a month. However in today’s world I am not sure how possible it is to keep that up. We have evolved into an online society. So much has been happening in the ‘Sculptural World’ I am not sure I can catch up with what has past. So will have to run with real-time and tell you what is happening today and coming up this month. In all things Yorkshire, we have two solo exhibitions happening locally.
This evening we open at Damside Mill ‘Evolution’ an exhibition about the journey of work over the last 14 years. An interesting collection of work from the bronze beginnings to the recent modern minimalism. Join us tonight for the preview:
At the same time ‘Evolution’ the sculpture has moved from its first location outside ‘The Royal British Sculpture Society’ and now stands proudly in Lister Park awaiting the accompaniment of two other larger piece for ‘Art in the Park’. We are also getting ready for the exhibition ‘Only Human’ at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery which opens on August 13th and runs until February 2015. It seems serendipitous that I have been visiting this place since I was 10, worked there and last year our eldest son learnt to ride his bike in this exact spot. As a family we have been on a journey through this creative space. Would highly recommend a visit.
Despite my last entry on not being able to write, I have been using what creative energies I have to put together this ‘statement’. I can’t take full credit and say it is my own words though, it is a rehash of things several others have written about my husband’s work. Things he said he wanted to include and a few sentences taken from here or there. Not sure if that is plagiarism mixed up together I think we have finally got a good ‘Artist Statement’. We have had several over the last few years that have almost been right but I think this one finally sums up the work we have to date.
It has now been uploaded on to the website http://www.samshendi.co.uk and we are now up and running on The Royal British Society of Sculptors profile . So we have made progress behind the scenes.
Graduating in 1997 with a first class BA degree with honors from Helwen University of Fine Arts in Cairo, Egyptian born sculptor Sam Shendi creates joyfully coloured abstractions of the human figure which, with the subtlest of indicators, hints at the complexity of human interactions.
Shendi’s works references the work of “minimalism”, the style of paring-down design elements and focusing on the medium of steel, aluminum and paint. Some of his works are deceptively simple in form but include the qualities of metaphorical associations, symbolism and suggestions of spiritual transcendence, which is what the artist of the 60’s and 70’s were trying to avoid.
His works whittles down the human figure to its simplest form enabling the exploration of the idea of the human form as a vessel. So by reducing the human body to a container or minimal shape, his creations become centered on an emotion or an expression. The simplicity is no longer the end result and devoid of meaning but a revelation of a hidden truth and intellectual expression.
Shendi’s work, therefore takes a fine line between representation and abstraction. Whilst he appreciates the abstract form his interest is in the human and psychological dimensions to his sculptures. Stripping human nature down to its essence, and then expressing it in a sculptural language.
Firmly based in modernist morphology his colorful architectural forms abbreviate the human figure and nod to his background in monumental sculpture and interior design. Shendi juxtaposes cartoonish lemon, ultraviolet and pumpkin-coloured blocks, conjuring associations with children’s toys and industrial design and lending his pieces an emotive and playful quality. His candy-coated palette animates the archetypal themes he addresses in his work. Assisted by the use of colour to deceive the eye, flouting a sense of gravity and taking the attention away from the material also gives the work a strong optical impact.
Sometimes we may feel the tension which despite their moderate size almost bear a ‘’will to grow’’ into monuments that we could easily imagine standing in the center of any city or landscape.Pieces balance between public art, sculptural and on the border of design.
With laconic titles his work takes on themes both in subject and style and it is clear to see pieces that group together in an exploration of an idea. They form a visual story and a unique style. There is always one important element, functioning as a keystone connecting all his creation – the theme of a human being in his most genuine form. Shendi always develops his creation around subjects, which are common, understandable and important to all of us, no matter what our taste, age or cultural background may be.
Describing himself as a figurative sculptor it is important to Shendi that the work, however minimalistic still has an impact on the viewer visually and emotionally. Recognizing his work as both literally geometric forms and industrial materials but also with additional meaning in bringing back the idea of traditional academic sculpture of humanity and emotion, results in a distinctive blend of modernity and timelessness.