After several years of carving, crafting, working and whipping up huge sculptural stories, tonight in Johannesburg the opening of my husband solo show will showcase all that work in one space at Graham’s Fine Art Gallery (photos from the gallery)
The sculptor was amazed to see himself larger than life. ( I see this everyday!) but literally plastered all over the building.
A month at sea, a stay in the port and then the drive from Durban to Johannesburg to the gallery, the sculptures arrived not quite without hiccup.
A few damaged and the repair kit missing added to the drama. However, hoping today that has all been fixed. I haven’t heard any updates so praying that everything is going well.
So he spent an intense day unloading and setting up.
Yesterday, he had interviews.
Tonight the show will open. I am so excited all the way back home here in North Yorkshire and anticipating hearing all about it….find out more tomorrow.
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 ….
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
Trust me to stumble into the farmer after knowingly not keeping to the path. I’ve never been much of a rule breaker. Born conformist? I think some would disagree as I have made choice that perhaps are not so. Give me instructions and I will follow them. Search for truth and stick to it. When I do try to go off the beaten track my conscience gives me a good slap around the face. Having a rare Saturday afternoon to myself, boys with grandma, I’ve done my yoga practise and packed up a small backpack with book, an apple and a bottle of water ready for a solitary ramble. I decide to take a route where I know there will be a few benches along the way to sit and read a while. I chose a perch I had forgotten about but was in the direct sunlight, as despite feeling like a spring day it was still a chilly early February afternoon.
After being startled by a friendly robin, scaring a rabbit and spying a horse and a llama I follow a new path to explore a different direction. Undeterred by the very obvious bridge over the stream to my left I continue through the field ahead feeling the rebellious urge to go through the muddy fields. Naughtily and feeling a little like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit I squeeze myself under the barbed wire and fling myself over the fence. I enjoy these small cheap thrills. I start to wonder what the penalty for not keeping on the path is and why one can’t just walk where you want to. I started to envisage Mr McGregor with a shot-gun still I wasn’t deterred but would definitely not be able to run should that occur as the ground was like ‘quick mud’. Adding to the excitement of my private adventure. Sometimes we do need to question the path we take in order to find ourselves.
I felt relief when I saw the wooden public footpath sign in the corner of the field ahead. Stopping to take a picture of a furry caterpillar to show the boys distracted me from seeing the farmer with his two dogs approaching through the gate. “Braved the beck did ya” he mumbled in his thick yorkshire accent. Not following what he meant and in my naive honesty and perhaps to relieve my conscience admitted to coming through the field. As long as I hadn’t cut the tie or the wire no harm done I think I grasped. Though his explanation of where the path actually was I still couldn’t fathom. Regardless, I think it may have been too overgrown and slippery steep to actually have followed. Are you local he asked. Yes I replied I live in co-ling or cowing I am still not sure how to say it. I will by some maps and stick to the road now I pledged. Smiling I walked to the sculptor’s studio realising I hadn’t been there in a while and it was on the route home.
The air inside a stark contrast to the fresh crisp air I had been deeply inhaling realising that much of the time I forget to breath when I am with my boys. Yoga helping with that! The studio felt toxic but looked a lived in proper working space, without a corner vacant of creation. In my eyes a mess but a place of activity, equipment and ideas for sure. My husband unveiled his bike to show me its purring engine but in the process flooded the tank. It’s over a year since he went to pick it up and I only briefly mentioned it in ‘Beauty’ then never posted about it again. There is something symbolic about a bike being a rebellious vehicle, even purchasing one feels like breaking the ‘norm’. In some ways he is the opposite of me when it comes to rule abiding. I remember in our first year together when he was teaching me drawing he instructed that you had to learn the rules in order to break them, that was what art was about. I can’t seem to do that though. My nature inclines to searching for rules in order to follow. We balance each other out, probably, on the scales of conformity and rebellion and meet on the same conscious awareness.
Here are the images of the bike, turned into a sculpture of sorts in its own way. Always questioning the rebel within.
…or the art in yoga, art of yoga, yoga of art? I can’t decide which is more appropriate.
I have moments where I make discoveries, like little light bulb moments. Ones where you want to stand on the roof tops or a mountain and shout it out loud. Well, I say that but I can’t imagine myself doing that even if there was nobody watching. The point is something clicks and then you want that something to click for everyone else. You know those things are going to help transform you. However, I have also come to learn that you can’t make other people have that click, they too have to discover it for themselves. I guess that is what makes us all different and what works for some of us doesn’t for others.
So using this blog as my mountain to shout from, my most recent discovery is yoga. It is helping me with a whole manner of things. Carving out time for myself everyday, exercise a little, focus on a better diet and helping me digest. It gives me balance. Balance in all things. The more we are able to physically balance our bodies and manage our breath it seems to give space to allow us to flow through the motions of everyday tasks with a greater ease.
The pace of life is so fast these days that we need time to stop and connect to our breath, to be aware of what is happening around us rather than going through the motions mindlessly. Stretching out is something I realised I needed to do. We can focus on energizing ourselves and in turn this gives us more energy for others.
My husband’s work is primarily focused on the human body, the human figure. It is what sculptors have focused on for centuries. With the aim of minimising, you can see a progression through theses images from earlier work to most recent work attempting to strip down the body to a simple line. Each showing movement and flow. What is fundamental in each piece though is balance and a harmony of lines vertically and horizontally.
I gave myself a 30 days of yoga challenge at the start of the year which has helped me transition from the warmth of Egypt at the end of the year to grey January in the UK. I would definitely recommend the energizing and enthusiastic Yoga with Adriene which I have been doing online for a while. Amazingly she takes live classes in an art gallery which as they are in Austin, Texas I am unable to get to! but in finding that out that discovered there are lots of yoga classes taking place in gallery spaces – what a great idea. Can’t find any in the UK though?
The images of my husband’s work are all of body movements I have roughly labelled them with a yoga pose, but they are by no means accurate. I am sure yogi experts would make corrections. Please do. Yoga was not the thinking behind the design of these sculptures but there are such strong connections. There is a beautiful mind, body, spirit link between yoga and art. Take the time to slow down and meditate on life, meaning, yoga and art.
In the new series, ‘beginnings’ we have another Mother and Child. It is a subject which has been continuously treated in the history of art and the origins interestingly go back to predynastic Egypt. Perhaps this interest has genetically been placed in my husband’s subconscious. It then mainly had associations with religious depiction and set formal arrangement and placement of ‘Mother’ and her child. Later there were the conventions of the time period that governed how paintings and sculptures would portray the subject of motherhood but mostly of the ‘happy mother’.
Today with almost ultimate freedom to express, we have this minimalistic colourist version. With this, as the viewer we can bring our own interpretations. The cut out circle mimicking the sphere shape balancing on the edge of the leg, as though babe has been within the mother but then taken and placed most precariously in the mother’s trust.
I love the sense of balance in this piece and in this images how the sphere, representing the child is the dominant component. The mother is the structure, the firm base sending this confident solid new ‘object’ off into the world. I also love the way the whole design of ‘the mother’ is two parts, splitting herself in two as she keeps the ‘child’ on her knee on one side and her many other roles on the other.
I have discovered I have two earlier entries both called balance about balance within life and motherhood, both an art in their own right. I thought I’d been quite clever at coming up with different titles, I wonder how many other repetitions I have made. However, life is about repetition especially as a Mother. The amount of times we do the same thing over and over again and sometimes I wonder why, but in my more philosophical moments there is beauty in repetition. The repeated patterns within this series of work pays homage to that. I believe we can, by making small seemingly meaningless task, make a difference to ourselves.
The use of the colour is also important to me in this piece as the strong red legs tell of the strength of womanhood, the quiet suffering and yet at the same time the beauty as though still managing to wear ‘red stilettos’ whilst juggling everything else life has given her, and again the circles and sphere add to this visual analogy.
The blue head (the mother’s mind) connects to the blue sphere (the child), as the mother’s preoccupation is so often of her child. The use of blue for the Mother’s head could also give reference to post natal depression which is a very different side to Motherhood that is not often depicted in the art of the past. The shadows that this piece creates, in themselves make hauntingly beautiful images of ‘Mother and Child’.
All a bit gory in the title, but then this expression summed up the day. It started two days ago when I came home in the middle of the day and was transferring my sleeping toddler from car to house. As I made my way up the stairs I got a little spooked to see a tall figure in the kitchen out of the corner of my eye. A full size skeleton had landed. For the last couple of days the kitchen and back yard have been the workshop. So we have had body parts lying around on the worktop and kitchen table. It is not a real human I must make clear, we have not gone as far as Damien Hirst. However, it may be a bit religiously controversial but that sparks debate.
I am hesitant about putting up sketches, although it shows the working process. The sketch is the first stage, the next stage is sprawled around our house making it rather cold as the back door is open due to the drilling that has been going on. When I told my eldest son what had happened today he immediately sobbed, a mixture of empathy and worry I think. His tears were heartfelt. So this is the blood addition, whilst drilling some of the parts together, I am not sure how the drill went through the skeletal sculpture bone into my husband’s hand, Ouch! but it did. I personally thought it looked like it had just touched the bone but he merely brushed it off as the first layer of skin (think we are talking more like subcutaneous layer actually). So in true Egyptian style he simply superglued it together. Rather fortunate I just happened to buy some at the beginning of the week to glue back together a wooden frame in the boy’s room which I have been meaning to do for months.
So the Sculptor is sore but still drilling away. So what has the sweat got to do with it? All this hard work, this piece had been the most physically exerting, and challenging. It made me think about how we define hard work. In the Uk we are constantly on a treadmill, we seem to think that if we have ‘sweated’ hard for something then we are more deserving of it. Although people talk about work life balance, I don’t see it. The majority of people live to work.
The question of what art is also arose. My husband pointed out that the majority of his work was purely from the imagination in his head, whilst this piece is the ‘idea’, putting something that already exists in a new way. People often comment about conceptual art that, ‘they could do it’. It is ideas and concept that create debate. Of course, in my own head I am now even more concerned about the sparks that may fly about this piece. However, there is an important message behind this work.
This image below was taken earlier, I have just been called through to see the finished body on the kitchen table. 14 hours later and 72 pieces assembled. A lot of blood, sweat and tears for one day.
Life is about balance. I went away this weekend for the first time in a long time , just me, no boys. I went on an amazing hen weekend. Wake boarding! Not only did the break realign my balance, the active outdoor adventure and the stimulating conversation with other woman was a great re energiser.
Speaking with the other ‘girls’ made me realise how woman are always trying to balance all the different aspects of their lives. As my friend, bride to be was one of my rowing friends most of the woman there had some connection with rowing at Durham, Oxford and GB Rowing Olympiads. Some trying to still fit in rowing whilst others had parted ways and started new adventures. With the Olympics approaching and all the buzz around it, the athletes will be trying to find a balance to remain composed before they start the ‘big race’. Some use the race as an analogy for life, but in that sense we need to think about where we are heading. We need to stop and take stock, reflect in the moment and re address our balance.