The story of Atlas

collections, Connections, Public Art

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.

 

greco-roman-statue

Greco Roman Statue

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.

atlas-from-below-2

Atlas (2016) Sam Shendi

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.

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.

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Sculptures taking flight

Philosophy, Public Art

I was driving the other day and saw a heron flying fairly high with great purpose away from the river running along my left side. It made me wonder where it was going, did it know where it was going?

Birds are featuring in the new Giant collection which my husband finished and already has taken down to London in one of his there and back in a day trips this weekend. On Friday they went to collect all the pieces from Doddington Hall in Lincoln and that was a full 12 hour day and then they were up at 4am to head down with these giants to Berkeley Square House. It took hours of driving and literally half an hour installation.  It would be great to see them flying through the air in hoists on helicopters like in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, that would save travel time! It’s great to get them straight out of the studio into a location though. These birds are not in flight though, they are perched on pieces which have great philosophy but before I get my head around the words, I will leave you to look at the images and decide for yourselves.

bwhisper

The Bird Whisperer (2016)

bird-whisperer

atlas-section Atlas (2016)

atlas

Photo Shoot at the studio

atlas-side

bsh In location

sculptures-at-bsh

At Berkeley Square House, Mayfair


bird-w-at-berkley

Doubts and dreams.

Exhibitions, Galleries

“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me.” ― Tennessee Williams

All artists have self doubts.

My husband often has his doubts and uncertainties simultaneously with a very clear dream and extraordinarily clear talent. The moment of finding his style was a pivotal point. Not in no longer having those doubting moments but more determined.

It is amazing how just taking a moment to stop and observe can help you clear your mind. As I ate my particularly prepared porridge and looked out the window, I captured a moment. A bird perched in a tree finding shelter from the wind. How much protection it found? I wondered, as the tree danced with the movement of the strong gusts on this cold and blustery January morning.

Even within language we may not all be visualising the same thing. If we say ‘tree’, what type of tree is it. What are you thinking of? A willow drooping low and forlorn, a palm reaching energetically tall, a busy evergreen, a strong oak with branches stretching outwards. Is it a tree made out ladies legs? What concept do we have in our own mind’s eye.

bird branch

‘The Branch’ will be shown at FLUX , The Rag Factory. London. FEB 18th-22nd

It is easy to think of trees as strong and immoveable. As the numerous branches move like dancing arms outside it makes me understand that nothing remains the same. Everything is moving, flowing, shaking, changing.

I had a big writers wobble the other day after reading my brother’s newly formed blog. I had a sudden large wave of self-doubt as I compared my own skills with his, unfavourably. Immediately seeing his confident youthful writing style as superior to my own rather than thinking that it is just a different way of writing.

sketch doubts

‘A sketch’ by Sam Shendi

Perhaps a tiny slip of the deadly envy creeped in or a little bit of sibling rivalry but it didn’t last long. I don’t harbour bad and unnecessary feelings for long. Especially towards my younger brother to whom I am maternally overprotective of. I used it positively. It made me realise that I had to focus on my own style and my own direction.

Observing nature helped too, the bird in the tree. We all have moments where we doubt ourselves. The wind shakes the branches of our spirit a little. It makes us grow and develop. My brother who is writing about his recent travels, tells me he hasn’t changed. People don’t change. Perhaps travel doesn’t change us. I think though, if the experience doesn’t change us then time will. Travelling inwardly to the depths of our soul should change us. If we want to change the world then we have to start with ourselves.

with a bird

‘Conversation with a bird’ by Sam Shendi

I have read lots of beautifully brilliantly written blogs over the last four years, here are 8 I would recommend:

http://outsideairblog.com/                             https://knowthesphere.wordpress.com/

http://winterowls.com/                                  https://pathsofthespirit.wordpress.com/

https://ittosjournal.wordpress.com/              http://wharnsby.com/

https://haywardhelen.wordpress.com/         https://emmasouthlondon.wordpress.com/

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”- Robert Hughes. Perhaps. I guess it is one of those emotions, it is only human. ‘Only Human’ my husband’s exhibition at Cartwright Hall will end on 23rd February. So one more month to go and view it.

So my mantra for this month. Stop doubting and start daring to dream.

sketchbooks display

‘Sketchbooks’ on display at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery

cellar gallery

‘Only Human’ exhibition at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery