Victoria, Anne and Matilda

collections, Colour, Connections

September is gone and October arrived and with it so many butterflies. Victoria and Anne and Matilda are sat round the table doing free flowing writing exercises, like the Bronte sisters did. I only know that because last week I went to a poetry workshop in Haworth. Lead by the poet Clare Shaw with her beautifully broad Lancashire accent who poetically spoke of Emily, Anna and Charlotte as though we were there with them. Names. Interesting how we name things and they become so. For these sculptural cocoons my husband named them old Queens of England. Read into this whatever you like; history, identity, nationality, royal family.

The philosophy of these pieces is based upon something the famous sculptor Michelangelo is quoted for, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. As though there is a life form within the material being manitpulated, asking for release,  finding a way for freedom from the restraints within the cocoon of medium. My husband’s sculptural journey is often  exploring ‘within’,looking at keeping that statue trapped. Not allowing the ‘breaking free’ process to occur and focusing on the development of the chrysalis. As the sculptor, I suppose this is his licence, to keep it under wraps.  A butterfly just tapped on the window, as I write which gives me a sign I am on the right track.

My interest is in the naming. The famous sculpture of Michelangelo is ‘David’. When we view the sculpture ‘David’ we see a carved figure of a human form. It is unlike earlier Renaissance depictions of ‘David’, the biblical hero standing over Goliath. Michelangelo’s pose is before the battle actually takes place. Over time sculptural practice changes and develops with shifts in materials, philosophy, ideas, the things that inform the world around us. As much as we can still carve materials into almost exact replicas of things, there has to be an evolution to creativity. My husband is making reference to the title of ‘David’ by naming the art work female names in the same way. This creates a story around the sculpture and asks the viewer to question the form. It  suggests that the figure is within the form but additional addresses the idea of what the human form actually is and to think of the body as simply a vessel, to look beyond shape. This concept is prevalent in much of my husband’s work. He is exploring the idea that we are so much more than our bodies  but congruently, sculpturally, this collection is all about form, shape, mass, volume.

Almost at the same time as this collection was completed my husband won a project  which we currently have to keep ‘under wraps’.  A project which has meant a trip to London yesterday for the sculptor. The link between the titles of these sculptures and the up and coming project is a little bit like my constant observation of butterflies. All signs and symbols that everything is unfolding as it should.

 

The Metamorphosis Collection

From Cocoon to Chrysalis. The Metamorphosis Collection

collections, Colour, Connections, Soul searching

Unintentionally I took a break from blogging in August. It strikes me that summer is a time for growth. For, the children physically, perhaps, for adults mentally. For me this summer I felt a strong need to work on self-development. I had heard that changes can happen when you turn the glorious age of 40, that shifts occur as though you are entering a new phase. I have a belief that things will fall into place for me within this decade. I didn’t realise it would be so marked.

I’ve also made a connection that my husband’s sculptural journey somehow mirrors my own life journey. So, when the boys were younger there was a heavy focus on ‘Mother and Child pieces‘, The ‘Giant collection’ when perhaps I was working through some post-natal shifts. The ‘Calligraphy collection’ as I started to outline my blog and with this latest collection during the summer months lots of links.

The metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly is a fascinating one and interestingly the boys love finding caterpillars and I love photographing butterflies. I think we all like seeing the positive result of change. This summer I have had time to reflect and do some work on my self, some self-realisation and feel, almost as if I am transitioning from a cocoon to the chrysalis. Meanwhile, the sculptor has been carving away at the ‘Metamorphosis collection’.

Matilda

‘Matilda’. The ‘Metapmorphis Collection’ by Sam Shendi

“Self-realisation is a strange term. You don’t actually realise your self.

If anything, you go away. The caterpillar enters a cocoon of meditation: A butterfly emerges, metamorphosis.” Frederick Lindemann

The Story begins with a very hungry caterpillar. The boys loved this book when they were little. I am totally that very hungry caterpillar and this is one of the aspects I am trying to evolve from! The next stage is spinning itself into a cocoon and within the protective casing radical transforms occurs. The Chrysalis is not a resting stage, a lot is happening. I think I am in that stage still and not yet quite the butterfly. It isn’t just about an external transformation, although I am working on that too. Trying to focus on active and healthy choices. It is the changes from within, re-working old habits, extending and expanding new thoughts and ideas. Shedding the layers physically and peeling away at the onion of our psychology.

“And so artistic creation is the metamorphosis of the external physical aspects of a thing into a self-sustaining spiritual reality.” Hans Hofmann

Victoria

“Victoria” from the ‘Metamorphosis Collection’. Sam Shendi 2019

I had some very liberating moments this summer and conversely some real trigger moments where I had some strong negative physical reactions to things which were happening. It is so important to navigate those trigger moments to understand what is happening in the sub-conscious and learning from them. To develop personal growth we need to acknowledge what we haven’t fully been willing to step into and where we are able to overcome those feelings. Like the caterpillar it is important to sacrifice who you are right now in order to see who you can become.

“I’d rather be this walking metamorphosis

than having that old formed opinion about everything.”  Raul Seixas

Anne

‘Anne’ part of the ‘Metamorphosis collection’. Sam Shendi 2019.

The butterfly isn’t necessarily the end result, just the start of the journey. One of discovery. Creativity. Exploration. Shapes of cocoons vary, yet there is something universally simplistic and beautiful about them. All the more intricate work happening within. As humans we have a tendency to focus on our exterior, our outer shell and leave our inner being under nourished. The work that goes on within us is transformative and the only real change we can make begins with ourselves.

I’ll write more about the sculptural concepts next time!

“It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: 

all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.” Henry Miller

 

Liverpool Plinth Winner 2019

Awards, Colour, Connections, Exhibitions, History, Public Art
Split Decision outside the church

Today is summer solstice, the longest day of the year which gives me extra time to get this written. Well, obviously not really but I am trying to use the daylight and sunshine to my advantage.

Another year which is speeding by with its struggles but also with success. This time last week ‘Split Decision’ was unveiled as the winner of the Liverpool Plinth competition, positioned on a plinth outside the Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. The sculptor entered three pieces into the competition made possible by Dot-art and Liverpool BID company. It wasn’t a commission. This piece was made 2 years ago and fortuitously hadn’t been exhibited anywhere before. We assumed he hadn’t won the competition or even been shortlisted because, back in May we still hadn’t heard anything . However, there had been a little delay in the announcement and so we were double thrilled to find out that he had won it. 

Last Friday, the rain just about held off and the sculptor enjoyed a fantastic day in Liverpool with important people and press. He kept phoning me with updates. I love the photo below where he is being interviewed and is beaming from ear to ear.

 

It feels a pinnacle of the journey so far, to be on a public plinth for a year, gaining publicity and exposure. It has been fascinating reading the initial public reaction, my first response was of anger at some of the comments but the sculptor is at a point in his career where he understands that art will provoke both positive and negative feedback, both are valid. The fact that it is creating conversation, for him, is the benefit and what he is looking for.

 

content of plaque on the wall below

I am so proud and can’t wait to take the boys to see it over the summer holidays. It felt very serendipitous to me that this first very public event was in Liverpool. My father was born there and as a family we have supported Liverpool’s football team for decades. There felt a strong link and connection.

So if you are in the north of England and passing by Liverpool, take a trip round the one way system that almost made my husband late for his own event!

The sculpture is facing out towards the famous water front. You can’t miss it.

Photos taken by Andy Garrett

Portugal with Art Catto

collections, Colour, Galleries, Mother and Child

When I was younger, I think I had the illusion that if you find yourself a mate you would then happily sit in a nest together looking out at the world. However, that isn’t what I have found to be true and not what has worked for me. For us, we fly down different valleys and then return to the nest to share tales of what we have seen and heard. That way, we see more of the world and are able to share a nest as well.

When the sculptor goes gallivanting off to sunny shores for exhibitions I really don’t have any desire to go with him. Over the past few years he has been to South Africa, Germany, Belgium and several trips to London. Perhaps, once the boys are older and no longer have the same need for me, I might go but whilst they are still young I’d rather be with them as an anchor. I am not sure how honest this is. However, he is there to work not to holiday. Also, because we work together it is actually quite good to get a little break! Actually, I think I would like to go on my own solo holiday and I have been reading about how for some women this is really important. I do think I perhaps should have spent more time on self care when the boys were smaller. However, I think this has only become a really ‘buzz’ concept over the last couple of years.

When it comes to travelling my husband and I have very different approaches which doesn’t make it the most relaxing of experiences for me. At these exhibition openings he is there for a purpose. He needs to be able to mingle and chat and he does so apparently with ease but he gets so so nervous before hand. On this trip he met a variety of people from all walks of life and he tells me everything in such detail, he is full of stories on his return. It is quite amazing to think of a young boy from a small village in northern Egypt now taking his work from the UK to Portugal. This collection of work is from the ‘Only Human’ collection and is presented by Art Catto at the Conrad hotel, Algarve.

The colours of the sculpture look awesome against the blue sky and green foliage. A true picture of summer. Meanwhile, whilst the sculptor was there struggling in the heat. I was running the shop, which actually is relatively straight forward with the addition of two boys as it was half term holidays and zero sunshine. My youngest, very active boy kept himself busy using a display fake peach, from the fruit bowl, as a football and scuffing all the plinths needless to say I didn’t keep the shop open for long. Except for a day when my parents took them to York for the day I had peace and quiet in the shop. So we survived and the week went past quite quickly. Interestingly, I had a fleeting moment before he went that I wouldn’t be able to do it all. I quickly realised that this was ridiculous and that I was more than capable of being able to do it all. I have been reading and listening to various things recently that confirm that what you are thinking and believing has so much impact on what happens. On the flip side of that, I had lots of ideas of what I would do whilst I had the evenings to myself but none of them really happened and I missed the sculptor more than I would admit. He is back now and the next project is Liverpool plinth….exciting stuff!

 

Full video : What is imagination?

Connections, Philosophy, Publications

 

I feel like I have heard the question, ‘What is imagination?’ echo around my head and in my kitchen for the whole of this year. It is the same video as I posted a few weeks ago with the addition of the second half about the sculptor’s imagination. So do keep watching until the end. I think it is quite a good, inspirational, informative, educational little video delving into the working of an artistic mind.

Let me know what you think.

& -the lessons I have learnt this month.

Colour, Connections, Making, Steel

&1

‘Ampersand’ 2019. Sam Shendi

My husband was laughing that everyone would know I was poorly the other week because I posted about it on Instagram. Well now even more people will know because I am writing about it on WordPress. However, I have only a few followers so it is not as though thousands of people will know. What is interesting though is that my post had a few more likes and I am aware that the more you divulge about yourself or share yourself, the more likely you are to increase your followers. This is where I struggle because although I would like more readership and followers on some level. I am so introverted that the idea of posting images of myself of  doing stories where I am in them feels totally against my natural inclination.

&

The reason I posted about being poorly was that it timely coincided with the sculptors evening photoshoot. Sods Law. I was literally bedridden with a fever and sore throat whilst the boys bounced around in the attic space, which we converted last year. They sounded like a herd of elephants. So I spent time being still and overcoming frustration on several levels. However, the positive is that we have more images to use for social media and galleries now.

&

I look back and wonder if I almost brought about my own illness by worrying whether I would still be able to run next month. It is often so difficult to be content with what is happening to us in the present moment but it is the most important time to lean into the situation and learn. So my stillness sparked off doing some meditation which I have done off and on before but never with a regularity, which I was able to do being in bed. I realise now that as much as it is good to move and energise yourself, it is also as important to balance that with stillness. Stillness in a productive way.

&

The more I read and learn, ‘Fear is being in a state, ‘not of right mind’. I have no reason to fear the future. Whether I will run or not, whether x,z,z will happen or not.  Fearing the future and worrying only prevents us from focusing on the present and actually makes us suffer twice or once unnecessarily. When you start to understand your own mind, you understand the world. The world is simply what you believe it to be.

&

On a completely different subject my husband taught me a knew word when he introduced me to ‘ampersand’. It is quite amusing that he told me it, my husband’s English has improved over the years but I sometimes have to give him spellings or slightly adjust his pronunciation of words. Sometimes I wait a while because I quite like the funny turns of phrase he comes out with like, ‘learning curve” used to be ‘learning curb’. Anyway, I learnt that the alphabet used to have an additional letter, did you know? x,y,x,&. When reciting the alphabet they would say ‘and per se’ so eventually this ran together to become ‘ampersand’.

The argument about never beginning a sentence with ‘and’ is because, to introduce a sentence with ‘and;’ expresses an incomplete thought but it is a stylistic preference rather than a grammatical rule. So you can use it for dramatic or forceful effect.

And so that is why I have punctuated each paragraph with the ampersand sign. So also not quite starting each sentence with and.

&

so finally this piece is finished. Usually the sculptor is fairly fast with the process from inspiration to creation, to carving to painting but this big boy has had a longer journey. It was initially created last year and has taken some work moving it and then smoothing it and finally painting it and then having the final photoshoot.

&

to give it some scale:

to give scle to &

Salah v Shendi and the love of success.

Connections, Egyptian, Public Art, Steel

 

This week has been an extra busy one. A trip to London for the sculptor, there and back in a night and day with no sleep. The sculptures  looking fantastic in 99 Bishopgate, London. A Yorkshire cross-country event, where a select few get medals but the completion of the course is a success unto itself, and Young Voices in Manchester arena for the youngest and I. Where singers stood on stage and talked about it being their childhood dream. Behind them the 6,000 strong children’s choir of which maybe  a handful will become singers. We also had various  mundane doctors and dentist appointments for us all to juggle in through the mix.

It was also my husband’s birthday though sadly the anniversary of his Father’s passing one year ago on the same day. With that and recovering from toothache, the reality of turning another year older was not such a celebration.

Apparently moments after his birth, his father ran with the newborn baby to his parents village to show off proudly the baby boy. My husband grew up in a small village on the Nile delta more than 120 kilometers from Cairo. Born in the 1970’s the landscape was very different to it is today, more fields more open space. He also had a few years of his childhood in Saudi Arabia and Yemen with a mix of family memebers, very opposing experiences in each country. So his whole childhood wasn’t centred in Egypt and wasn’t an easy one. It was almost a bit nomadic in some ways and this, I think created a sort of detachment from people and objects a little. It gave him a self-reliance and a resilience, perhaps.

His life story is different from Salah’s (the Egyptian Liverpool player for those of you who may not know who I am talking about) who was born a number of years later into a modern generation but a comparable village on the Nile delta North of Cairo. Both seem to have a unique determination to succeed from a young age, although perhaps Salah knew his talent was football sooner than Shendi realised it was sculpting. Despite different pursuits they both had a dream and a remarkable journey in pursuing it.

Of course, the fickle footballing world has made Salah’s story that much more accessible than that of my husband’s. Already in a book form suitable for young readers, I have been reading about the young footballer to my youngest son which has been inspiring but brought home the similarity of their roots. The speed to which Salah has gained notoriety is a bit different though. An artists pathway more slow and steady but with the advantage of having a potentially longer career span. My husband gets frustrated that footballers get so much attention and followers and that we become tribal when supporting football teams. He still enjoyed watching the Liverpool matches with us when we were in Egypt though!

Art and football are two antipodal worlds. However, I do think sometimes sport can become an art. Our youngest son loves them both When he doesn’t want to be a professional footballer he wants to be a fashion designer and consequently  Shendi and Salah are both his heroes at the moment. Obviously as his Mother I believe he can do either and I want him to be aspirational. But realistically both are reknowned endeavours which require raw talent, experience and a lot of luck.

It is interesting to me, that what seems to define success at the moment and how the world tends to view success is in terms of material wealth, career and salary. I feel there are more important routes to follow than a material one. People seem very quick to drop their dreams for a security blanket of a job which will enable them to buy the house, the car, the holiday.

Yet if Shendi and Salah can rise up into the art and sporting worlds from small villages in Egypt, overcoming all kinds of obstacles along the way, then it feels like anything is possible. However, one of my favourite quotes from a Disney film is,  “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere”. Having the talent at something has to be a starting point. At what point do these dreams become realised and when is it deemed a success. Why do we love success?

With my eldest I have been reading a book about people who have overcome and endured hardships yet become successful. The message being that failing and flopping is the most important part of succeeding.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people

into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

I think that it more obvious when you lose in sport but maybe easier to get back up again but can you ever fail? In Art it is vague in both being successful and knowing when you’ve lost. It seems to me more of a case of enduring the rises and falls but remaining focused on the direction of the dream.  This image below captures so well, ‘Get your dream’, which is perhaps a better way of being successful.

GET YOUR DREAM

What is sculpture?

Connections, Making

bustblack

My Dad gave me a brilliant article titled, “When does art become art?” by John-Paul Stonard. Stonard argues that when we look at art “we depend overwhelmingly on the presence of the artist’s name”. Is it the ‘art’ that makes the artists rather than the other way around? “We take the thing we are looking at as ‘art’ because we have been told that it has been made by an artist”.

But what makes an artist an artist?

Micheal Craig Martin’s theory is, “As soon as you make a piece of art, you’re an artist”. You can only emerge in the art world as an artist if the work of art gives credit to the master. So the artwork has to be of a standard or quality? However, I am not sure we see that so much nowadays. It is not always about a thing of beauty. For my husband the idea that if you make art you are an artist doesn’t feel right. His idea is that to be an artist it is a level that you achieve when you combine, creativity, ideas and natural talent along with years of practise. My husband’s opinion is that:

“Art is like a world in a different galaxy, you have to travel for years to get to it and when you arrive anything you create becomes art”. 

His answer to the question ‘What is sculpture?’ is that it sculpture is a statement which shares the space with the viewer. It isn’t alive but it is a strong element or subject.

An old colleague of mine, having seen my endless Instagram stories about, ‘what is sculpture’ sent me a message saying his University tutor once said, “sculpture is the thing you bump into when you step back to look at painting”. Before meeting the sculptor I was always so much more interested in painting, I think for me art was painting. Where as now I feel there is something a little more sophisticated about sculpture. There is more of an avenue for abstraction and ambiguity. I was always interested in whether abstract art was a way forward or a dead-end? I think my opinion on that is ever-changing.

However, historically sculpture had more focus and attention. Monuments erected to dominate and display power and prowess. In the past, the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans used their sculptures to connect people with gods. Sculptures were used to overpower people with the presence of three dimensional statues deemed to be a deity. Rulers had sculptures made of themselves. Sculpture was valued and therefore a method to mark out a society.

Duchamp changed the art world with his theory that the role of the viewer completed the work and created a total withdrawal from physically completing work. Heidegger in his ‘Origin of the Work of Art’ in  1935 argues that the artist remains inconsequential.lifeboat-2

“Beginning with art, rather than the artist , returns to the poetry of art”

The Industrial Revolution changed the possibilities available to sculptors. Carving had always been the main skill perhaps where as now fabricating, assembling, combining together materials seem to all be sculptural qualities. After the rise of modernism, the artist became able to manufacture all sorts of materials for the production of sculpture. Duchamp’s radical gesture opened the doors to different ways of generating sculpture. But the lines are now blurred between art forms. What about the statement, ‘You can’t have art without a creator’? Studios in the sixties changed as the factory and fabricators started to be more involved. The removal of carving out your craft, chipping away at a material to create a figure  was no longer the only means by which to produce form. So there isn’t just one person involved in the process but maybe just one person with the idea.

tube form

 

Other influences were nature and organic form on sculpture. Bio-morphism in art relates to the integration of natural and organic form into a work. These works sometimes look amorphous. Suddenly sculpture doesn’t have to be about form or focus on the human body. It opens up an avenue for a whole new exploration into shape, structure, space, line, dimensions.

I think if you look at a Shendi Sculpture, whether you understand it or not, it can be appreciated, observed and will stand the test of time. This is what I am unsure about with the more conceptual sculptures of today. In years to come will it still be able to exist without an ‘artist’ or ‘curator’ placing the ‘objects’ together in their ‘correct’ positions.

Is it all in the labels? Labels on the walls in the galleries, labels that we give people, labels that we give things. Lawerence Scott who was speaking on Russell Brand’s podcasts, Under the Skin last week touched on this idea of labelling and words. My interpretation of what was said, was that we label things in order to define them. Sometimes that definition packages things into boxes when the whole point is to try to think outside the box. Words sometimes are not quite enough to describe what we mean.

I asked our boys, “what is sculpture?” and the eldest replied, “it’s a man-made form which has meaning”. We have been discussing and questioning, as we constantly see new work, which we wonder whether fits in our 11 year olds definition.

Creativity today seems to come down to ideas and in the sculptural sense you can simply present an idea, which can then be classed as art. Classified as ‘art’, only if you are an established ‘artist’, of course.

'chemo 2007'

I’m not sure whether there is any conclusion to this question, but endless opportunities for discussion and I guess that ultimately is the point of art.

Luna London Art Fair

Colour, Exhibitions, Galleries, Publications

We have been ‘Moon’ spotting over the last weeks as it has been noticeably spectacular. One evening last week when driving back from swimming lessons the moon appeared to be sat on the horizon with just the smallest of slithers glowing around the edge and yet you could still see the full outline of the full circle. It was magic.

When we were in Egypt we saw a huge reddish moon, large and low but it is tricky to get a good image of the moon. In the news this week apparently the Chinese have managed to grow a shoot on the moon. Not sure how true that is! Linking to the Chinese, the character for ‘moon’ is above and so is a three-dimensional sculptural version which is currently being exhibited with AN gallery, a Korean gallery at London Art Fair. Whilst the lines of the brush strokes almost correspond exactly to the coloured piping at this angle, the beauty of a sculptural form is that it can be viewed at many angles and creates a whole new perspective.

The colour positioning in this piece creates a pictorial view. A red moon, I think I questioned this before I saw the real deal by the red sea. Perhaps also representing the Japanese flag which also uses this moon character. A pink sky, a green tree, black earth. These colours are also deemed to be lucky colours in Chinese culture.

 

In the early hours of Tuesday morning or more like the middle of the night, the sculptor was up with his aches and pains and setting off with van and sculpture down to London Art Fair. This meant I had to take youngest child (who usually sleeps in) with me, to drop of eldest child, so to make it easier for breakfast, I put weetabix in a jar and we poured over the milk whilst we sat in the car park. One of my first jobs was to remember to pay for congestion charges for their drive through London.

By mid-morning I got a very quick snatched call from a panicked sculptor who said they had chipped sculpture on the way in and that the gallery who he is exhibiting with wasn’t on the ground floor.  So the sculptor was stressed and then he had to dash. So I couldn’t concentrate on my invoice inputting…

The next call was to say he couldn’t check in to the hotel until 3pm and he was tripping and dripping and really wanted to sleep but had to look around the other stands.

I don’t often think ‘we’ titled a sculpture wrongly (the emphasis on the ‘we’ here) but I am starting to wonder whether we should have named this piece ‘Luna’, the Roman personification of the divine embodiment of the moon would link nicely with this still being seen as the outline of a figure.

The sculptor headed home yesterday on the train with lots of stories to tell me. An interesting meeting  which I’m trying not to get too excited about as it’s early days and sometimes these things don’t happen. But positive thinking. London Art Fair continues until Sunday, if you are in London why not head to the business Centre (52 Upper Street, London) to check it out.

Seasons Greetings

Colour, Connections

IMG_8148

Snow topped Sculptures at the studio

Wishing you all a warm winter wonderland. I say this merrily as we are in Egypt for this holiday season 2018. Finishing off one of my best years in the sun! Thank you for reading and here’s hoping 2019 brings more sculptures, success and stories. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.