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

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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
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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.

Think Pink

collections, Relationships
PINK BUST WITH SAM

Sam Shendi with Sculpture 2018

Last night I was sandwiching together a ridiculous number of cakes to make a rainbow coloured stack and cutting up the most pink sparkly sugar filled rocky road. I sent my youngest off to school this morning with them all precariously balanced in a tin for the Christmas fair. I am not sure how they will survive, if they will look appetising or how they will be served.

However, in the middle of my cake art, the sculptor returned from the studio but quickly went back out for a photo shoot. Luckily the boys were very happy occupying themselves, as at the moment bedlam seems to occur at bedtime. The eldest was busy doing origami and the youngest creating his own floor pool game with golf balls and a long plastic stick from the axe, which was part of a Halloween costume. So everyone was being creative in their own way.

The sculptor said he’d stopped doing carving for several reasons but I knew it wouldn’t last long. A new collection called, ‘The philosophers’ has been created this last month. I love the white on white in this image, it is reminiscent of sculptural busts of old. Topped with pink like candy. I am not sure yet if each one has  its own name but this one is very pensive to me. Sweet thoughts.

So wishing you a deep and meaningful December. I will leave you to ponder.

“Art is not about itself but the attention we bring to it” 

Marcel Duchamp

Who am I?

Mother and Child, Relationships, Soul searching

The age old existential question, Who am I?

We can easily describe ourselves in labels, as I have done for the name of my site, The Sculptor’s Wife. We can be wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend or husband, father, brother, son but that doesn’t make us who we are. I remember my sister telling me this after she had been in a lecture where they were asked to do this exercise and she had described herself in labels. Roles, which do play an important part in what we do.

In thinking about this, I took a little quiz at www.quizony.com which  kindly told me I was balanced, emotionally stable, a calm steady force and anchor for those around me. Without blowing my own trumpet I’d say that was pretty acurate. I need to be in a house with three male Shendi’s all with artistic temperaments (whatever that means). However, this painting might suggest otherwise:

Painting of me

Painting, The Sculptor’s Wife. by Sam Shendi 2018

 

The sculptor painted this earlier in the year whilst we were doing home improvements and whilst doing so we moved around the paintings. My husband re-used an old canvas of his which had been framed. There are several amusing things about this painting. I am green, I am holding a pineapple like a baby, I am wearing a pearl necklace which I don’t own. I think I look very severe with a nose like a smurf, not calm and anchored at all. Perhaps I do look anchored. I somehow look routed to the spot not willing to move from my view point. The funny thing is I think it looks very much like my Aunty, my Dad’s sister. Although, as I have lived with this portrait staring down at me in my kitchen over the last few months it does have an air of resemblance, despite it being like a caricature. I do tend to have pink cheeks!

I started this blog nearly nine years ago almost just as a documentary for myself not with intention of people reading it. This year I am really starting to think about growing it (any tips/advice on how to greatly received). Prompting me to consider where it is going and where I am going as me, myself. My desire to write. To expand. My role as wife and mother is pretty central to my day to day living and purpose. I manage much of the admin for both our kitchen business and our expansion into the art world with sculpture. In today’s world if we are not career driven then it can be seen as not aspirational and as though being a homemaker is not ambitious enough, as though it is something from the 1950’s. I think and hope ‘we’ are turning a corner in what defines success and how to achieve happiness.

 I started this year with ‘purpose’ as an intention. Not having a resolution but a word for the year. In doing so I have set goals and now well on my way to achieving them which gives me hope for 2019. There are so many more ways to learn and self improve than doing so through a structure of a system designed by others.

Last night whilst reading to my son the character was saying that everything happened by chance. I said I didn’t agree and that when things happened it was fate. My son said they were the same thing, but in discussing it, we decided fate was more connected faith. When you have faith then everything happens for a reason. It has a more hopeful outlook than merely chance. I think I would describe myself as a woman of faith but like everything it is all a practice. In current society that brings about many challenges.

‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

For those new to reading my blog thank you for reading. I am, to use the labels, wife to the sculptor Sam Shendi. I write about the sculptures, art and day to day life with an artist and as the mother of two active and growing boys. I am seemingly, a calm, balanced regal pineapple!

You can also follow me on instagram @thesculptorswife.

 

“What you see is what you see”

collections, Colour, Connections, Old Masters

CS1

“A sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood up somewhere.”

 I’ve used this quote from Frank Stella before but it is so apt for this piece particularly. It harps back to the minimalists of the 1960’s who were looking at the basic elements of an artwork; colour, shape, composition and within that the principles of line, plane, volume, point and space. Cityscape II is the second in a pair within a collection called ‘The harmony between vertical and horizontal”. Interestingly the relationship between vertical and horizontal is that they are opposing elements, they are opposed by nature. This is a study of  the harmony that lies between those oppositions.

How often do we oppose things which causes conflict and dissolution. If instead we look at how contrast can work together to a mutual benefit. I often think of myself and my husband like this. My eldest son asked me one morning what is was about ‘Baba’ that made me know he was my husband. I said, “because he is everything I am not”.

Last week I wrote about visiting the city with my siblings. This week it was half term, hence the later posting and I’ve experienced more conflict between my boys this week. Each age and stage producing their own challenges. I took the boys into the city as we needed to return something. Doubly stressful. One almost fainted in the first shop and we had to pay extra to get on the train because our tickets were off peak! Despite the bickering and managing the crowds and changes int temperature from outdoors to inside we almost had a good time! Interesting, my youngest observed that there were more poor people in the city. There are definitely more juxtapositions to see in the city than the country.

In ‘What you see is what you see: Donald Judd and Frank Stella on the End of painting in 1966’ ,  question the qualities of painting and what painting is, promoting the idea of “A trend towards simpler painting” and a connection between the European geometric painters. Stella is likened to Mondrian and he dismisses this saying he felt he was more like Vasarely. Similarly, I would say that this new piece isn’t a sculpture trying to be a Mondrian in three dimensions but that it is a sculpture that  nods to the minimalists, those eternal elements that artists are exploring, playing and discovering. It is in itself the beauty of sculpture as a three dimensional art piece and the shapes and colours echoing those of Mondiran’s famous abstract paintings. If we look at each angle of this sculpture it is constructed, created, envisioned in form, space and order.

At the time when the minimalists were practicing they put forwarded their simpler approach paralleled by more complicated styles at the time. Perhaps similarly, with the art world today in an era of ‘objects’ and philosophy out weighing the craftsmanship, the sculptor – in this case my husband, is responding to that with highly polished, highly finished, and well designed sculptures. They are “works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” -which is ultimately the definition of art.

 

 

Cityscape II. Sam Shendi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The secret within the cityscape

Colour, Philosophy, Steel

In the summer my siblings and I went into Leeds for a meal. I think that was the last time I went into a city. Like a country mouse I gaze up at the towering architecture, navigate the crowds of people and stare at the lights. Slightly in awe but leaving with almost immense relief.

My sister lives in Sheffield and my brother in Sydney so I am the country bumpkin of the three. I spend my days at home in a rural village in Yorkshire, tootling or pottering about the country roads (although probably not quite at that leisurely pace) as I pick the boys up from school and take them to activities, always feel I am running late and working at our shop in a nearby small town.

I like the slower rhythm and the quiet that comes with country living. The sculptor likes this too but sometimes he wonders if his career as a sculptor may have had a different pace had we been in London. He spent 8 days in London in September and this next month (November) is there almost every weekend collecting pieces from various locations.

Perhaps, inspired by the city landscape but also a  progression on from the calligraphy collection, into a new movement of geometric three-dimensional-drawings this sculpture below is one in a pair of cityscapes.

cityscape 7

Cityscape II by Sam Shendi 2018

I love how the shadows also cast a unique city skyline. The interplay of the vertical and horizontal lines causes each slight degree of movement to create a different vision, so every angle produces a new piece of sculpture and a new projected shadow.

The geometric, angular and straight lines within this piece is very much like my experience of being in a city. Striking and bold, dominating and  deliberate. As well as feeling excited and mesmerised, I can often feel overwhelmed and slightly confused in a city space. This sculpture beautiful captures all of that and then hidden within a secret. As so often is the way in cities, some little gem or oasis of tranquility.

In the sculpture the hidden secret is this angle (below).

cityscape 3

Character-by-character-Mandarin-Chinese-learning-Mountain-is-written-as山-shān-1
This direction or position gives us this, very clearly the Chinese symbol of mountain. Within any landscape there are hidden treasures, places to uncover. Even within the landscape of art. Art is no longer the traditional forms of paintings and sculpture. Art is a vehicle of ideas and philosophy. A way of communication, visual storytelling and ultimately a way for us all to exercise our imagination.

Bonkers

Exhibitions, Public Art, Relationships
mermaid in building

Section of ‘The Mermaid’ in the reception of Aldgate Tower, London

Last week passed in a flash. A bonkers week! Having the sculptor back at home after his eight-day trip in London must have made the difference. Indeed he came back with stories and stuff, now strewn along the countertop in the kitchen. I thought I had finally cleaned and cleared for good this time! We may have converted the attic to a bedroom but now we need an office.

The week got so carried away that I forgot about writing and putting out a Friday blog. It’s a self-imposed deadline and it’s not as though I have thousands of follows falling off their seats waiting for my blog post to drop into the ether, however, this year I have found the structure of weekly writing helpful. I am still not sure how to increase readers though and I swing like a pendulum as to whether that is what I want or not.

I don’t feel I am back in a routine after the summer holidays  and with having a week of being at the shop (our kitchen business). I am looking forward to getting back into a routine. All a little bit altered with some changes in after school clubs and the boys now in different schools.

So last week the sculptures went straight from Saatchi, in a van with the sculptor to a new location in Aldgate Tower, London. It was decided that they looked best without plinths, appearing to come out of the ground.

However in the middle of last week we got a call to say the client wanted plinths, people were coming to close to them and probably other reasons too. Dutifully on Sunday the sculptor made a return trip to London with plinths. He was unfazed by this mainly I think because it is a new company we have started working with and  hopefully future potential. They do , however, look so much better on plinths.

I like this time of year as  the shift in seasons feels more distinct and reminder of and for change. Whilst the sculptor spent Sunday in the van, the boys and I enjoyed some autumnal sunshine in the woods after stressful morning of homework, don’t get me started on year 4 maths.

I had a little win in a lovely new shop and cafe which focuses on zero  waste. I filled up two lovely glass jars with hand soap and fabric conditioner for the washing machine, apparently you can make this from conkers. So it felt counter productive when you then have to go and buy plastic wrap to go round your child’s Spanish book all nicely covered with collage as part of his homework and even more so when you have to go and do it again because the first time round the purchase wasn’t clear plastic but a solid blue; though I am sure I read the label saying clear. It blatantly wasn’t clear enough.

Searching for conkers and then throwing against the wall for them to smash out of their shells was perfect therapy. We went bonkers for conkers, maybe even more so if we use it as soap.

aldgate building

Sam Shendi Sculptures in the reception of Aldgate Tower, London

 

 

Hidden Symbols

collections, Colour, Exhibitions, Galleries

I am sat with a hot black coffee and some jammy figs trying to resist the urge to pick up the book I am currently reading. The problem I have with reading is that it is incapacitating, I don’t want to do anything else. This week however I am solely in charge of our business and the boys as the sculptor is in London at the Saatchi gallery with a solo booth at Start Art Fair.

This is a tick off the bucket list, although not a complete solo show in the entire space which would be the next step.

The pieces look something again in a totally white space and the advice of ‘less is more’ definitely paid off.

start art pieces

Sam Shendi, Start Art Fair 2018, Saatchi gallery, London.

When we look at art I wonder if we always want a quick fix, we want it to makes sense to us, to understand what we are looking at. Photography, painting and sculpture in the past always portrayed some kind of reality even if colours were at odds with the world around us or angles and lines in wrong places.

Someone interestingly asked the question whether my husband used the golden ratio in his work. With artists who have natural talent the rules are somehow embedded within their psyche they have a sense of why and what looks right. They aren’t necessarily following rules by prescription.  What they see makes sense aesthetically and their way of seeing and thinking is different.

These particular pieces maybe seen by some, as abstract forms, colourful piping for the playground or an object to lock your bike to. Shape or space. For the journey of sculpture it is about a three-dimensional form, how to visualise something from every possible angle. What inspires the form for my husband is all rooted in the human figure. The outline or the line that one would sketch becomes manipulated to show a position or body movement. If you look at some of Henry Moore’s abstract piece they look like pieces of vertebrae, focused on mass and volume. If we were to take the outline of those shapes we have these Shendi pieces. The negative space which the colourful line creates could be the sculpture. Or the line itself the sculpture which simultaneously casts a shadow also creating meaning and symbols. Hence, the name of these pieces: Hidden Symbols.

From this angle, the sculpture on the left shows the infinity symbol which becomes a very different shape looking at it from a different angle, an example of how we can all have alternate view points. The sculpture on the right could be a graph, a symbol of communicating information visually.

It is a journey to abstraction based on reality. In a world where we are over stimulated with reality, in the era of social media and screens of visual reality we no longer need to see sculptures of human bodies literally.

Art can take us into new ways of seeing, expand our ideas and if we sit down long enough, make us think for ourselves and use our own imaginations again.