Example of minimising with meaning

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:

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‘Thinker’ (2007)

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.
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Less is More

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‘King and Queen’ (2016)

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ is a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. I have really begun to tap into this idea of simplicity. It began last year when we cleared out the attic space in an attempt to start converting it into a inhabitable space. Full, it was of boxes, of my things. So I started to de-clutter and was recommended the book, ‘Spark Joy’ by Marie Kondo. Since then I have delved online into the world of Minimalism with countless sites and support groups. It is a work in process and I still have a way to go, being a natural hoarder. Tied into this is also the realisation of how much waste we produce and in minimising somethings I am also looking at how to reduce my own waste.

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Before you get any ideas of me producing no rubbish, I have to point out that we are still producing endless amounts of blank bin liners full of waste every week and that is what shocks me. Shocks me into action… a little bit. So, I start with myself. I am trying to be consistent in making my own dairy-free milks to reduce the number of tetrapacks. Our milkman delivers the milk in glass bottles which I rinse and return but my eldest and I are no longer having cow’s milk. Here in lies a little problem, of how you get everyone onboard in these journeys.

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‘The Bench’ (2014)

My husband’s work has always been around the human condition, the human figure. In many ways, if we think about form it is hardly surprising that sculptors have always been preoccupied with the human body. ‘Stripping away to the most simplistic form’ is what has become integral to his practise as a sculptor.

Clement Mont said “Very often people confuse simple with simplistic . The nuance is lost on most’. Within art in the 1960’s minimalism was about “painters and sculptors avoiding overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works.” My husband is referencing this movement in many ways, perhaps in use of colour and form but using it as a platform for storytelling and communicating deep human messages. In a time when, globally, nationally and individually we seem to be hankering after meaning.

'The Bow'
‘The Bow’ (2012)

Hans Hoffman who was pivotal in abstract expressionism stated that, “The ability to simplify mean to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”.

In the art of de-cluttering your possessions, this rings true. We live in a world of consumerism and a society driven on the belief that acquiring possessions and wealth will lead to greater happiness. A study from Princeton University shows that too much disorganized stimuli simply overwhelms the brain. I am finding that getting rid of the excess is leading to more time, more space and more opportunities. Only at the start of my journey, I am already feeling the benefits, peeping through like the snowdrops beginning to emerge from the frosted soil.

I am finding my ability to the house work a more pleasurable process and less time-consuming. If we take pleasure in the things we do have, we can value their role and be less wasteful in what we consume. Although it is not to become another thing we aim to achieve just to keep up with others, or put pressure on ourselves for perfection perhaps.

‘Nature was pleased with simplicity’ Issac Newton believed and that ‘Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity and not the multiplicity and confusion of things. With the world around us being a noise of confusion, the art world should be responding by giving us something beautiful, simple yet telling a visual story and reminding us what is means to be human. Slightly bias, but I think my husband’s sculptures do just that.

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‘Isolated’ (2013)

Lost words

 

Last week I got back into my writing and wrote a long post, ‘Less is more’, saved it to come back to in an attempt to re read and edit what I am writing and be a little more conscientious. I occasionally do this (not that often) and the saving system works fine. However, this time it has cleverly morphed the post I wrote the last week with one I had not ‘published’ yet written 6 months ago that was quietly sitting in the ‘draft’ file. I am not even sure how this has happened but the bulk of what I have written is lost into a virtual ether that I feel my brain can’t get back.

I sit here feeling frustrated about all the quotes I had sourced and the links to other things, it had the making of being a really good entry, I was sure. Lost. Made me think about something my husband had put up on one of his social media a few weeks ago. Ironically, someone commented that they wondered what Mrs Shendi thought. I was puzzled as to what they meant. Why were they interested in my opinion about what my husband does with his work?

I know the sculptor can grab a bit of clay at anytime and sculpt it into a head, so easily that it makes you think anyone can do it. With words, perhaps it should be as easy, to re-write something that has already been written. Will it be better rewriting it? At this moment it feels irretrievable, gone. Evaporated. Do writers create as easily as sculptors or is moulding words into a coherent piece of writing a different process?

The mindful meditation that I have been trying to work on this year reassures me that yes everything happens for a reason. There is a purpose as to why that piece of writing is not to be ‘published’. As I quietly, calmly sit here with the ‘serenity’ I am pursuing, a little cartoon image of me stopping like a 2-year-old and having a tantrum, going bright red with anger and frustration pops up in my mind’s eye. But it’s just not me. The only thing that seems to anger me at the moment is my boys not listening to me, and I am working on that because I think we all have selective hearing once in a while, especially when we are asked to do something menial like pick up a sock! So to take heed of my husband’s lesson. I can do it again.

clay-head-3“Since the time of the University until now, I have created so many portraits. Yet I always break them after I finish and recycle the clay. The same piece of clay that I used in this portrait has been recycled since 2008. I think I have made about 8 different portraits and somehow I stop and then the only thing I want to do is break it, instead of casting it. It feels as though if I were to cast it and have it around me in the studio, it would be as though everything I made afterwards would look like it. These days I could stay 2 years without creating one portrait. I just get a feeling that my hands need to create a portrait. The more I let my hands decide to create the sculpture, the quicker and the easier it comes. The point is, I was never frightened to break it after the hard work because I always say to myself I can do it again.”clay-head-1

Take Five, ‘artists who have lit up the genre’. How one got there.

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The gallery, The Civic, Mother and Child by Sam Shendi

It’s about 14 years since I met ‘the sculptor’ and although when I met him he wasn’t practising very much, he did an occasional clay sculpture but he was painting and drawing all the time, as that is what his space limited him to. Over the years as we increased our space his practice developed along with it. We had a fantastic attic flat for a year where lots of clay maquettes were made. When we bought our first house they survived the move and were all sat on a folding dining room table until one night we heard a crash and the table had collapsed along with probably 50 or so clay sculptures.

Just after I had our first child I was sat in the living room and the midwife came to visit,  3 clay heads lined up on the floor and she pointed to them and said that will have to stop. I never really understood what she meant. I was in the fog of being a new mum. I hope she meant that we would have to stop putting them on the floor and that she didn’t mean to stop the practice.

We did stop putting them on the floor but the studio then was a tiny shed in our yard until about perhaps 4 years ago – I’ve lost count, when we finally got a studio space and this was pivotal in the development of his work.

In January I will have been online with this blog for 6 years and this is my 250th post. And in this time we have come so far. On Saturday in the weekend Yorkshire post, we were so excited to see this:

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Saturday 26th November, Yorkshire Post Magazine

 

To be listed alongside Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore is a dream come true. We are lucky in Yorkshire to have had these two greats among our history, heritage and it is quite almost unbelievable to be seeing ‘the sculptor’s’ name in a top 5 list with them. From my point of view, it is so deserving and so true.

It is great publicity for our other achievement, a solo show opening at The Civic in Barnsley. Yesterday my husband and the team at the gallery set up and it’s all ready for the private view on Friday evening and the show runs until January 28th 2017. The photos he took of the set up look stunning. The exhibition is entitled Mother and Child and it was interesting looking back and my first three blog entries all of mother and child pieces. Mother and Child is an endless subject and timeless. This exhibition at The Civic is very much about storytelling.

mother-and-child-collection

‘The colour blue is prevalent throughout the collection, and is used in a way that it respectfully represents the struggles which go with motherhood; the depression, the sleepless nights, the fear of losing the child, the back pain, the swollen feet, the pain of giving birth and going beyond one’s own comfort, the sacrifice.

It seems ironic that the journey we have taken in developing the sculptor’s success into the art world mirrors my own journey as a mother. When I look at these pieces they are monuments of the last 10 years of motherhood for me. But they are everyone. They will touch and impact on anyone who sees them. They are a reminder of the truth, motherhood is one of the greatest and unrecognised and often under appreciated roles on earth.

If you are in Yorkshire anytime from  3rd to January 28th I would recommend a visit to The Civic. Open Tuesday -Saturday, 10am- 5pm.

Finding butterflies

Overwhelmed, by seemingly everything at the moment is how I am feeling and yet I know I should be grateful that in so many ways my life is relatively straightforward. The summer holidays passed in a flash and whilst I was more mindful to enjoy the moments with the boys, I was still relieved some what to parcel them back to school this week. Although this gives me a little more time, the activities we are involved in and school work resuming seems it’s just one hectic life for another. I need to find my butterfly wings and aim for feeling less defeated.

The time with the boys has distracted and separated me from the world of art a little and I have missed a few scoops which occurred over the holidays with little time to blog. So here is one: We woke on August 3rd in the morning to receive several messages that my husband had coverage of his name and work on the morning breakfast show. His work got really good coverage and the weather reporter mentioned his name twice The reporter seemed to really like the butterflies and the colours of his work. Here is the best clip we got, doesn’t have it all but it was so exciting.

Defeated Butterflies in Doddington Hall, Lincoln. Coverage on BBC breakfast news.

 

Pace and the art of being in the moment

I wasn’t so surprised to see it’s been 24 days since I last posted a blog. Time feels it is running faster and faster. My sister-in-law once told me “life is like a room, in one door, out the other.” The days at the moment seem to pass with increasing speed.

The speed at which something happens.s I seem to fail miserably at keeping up with any one challenge I am pleased that this blog is ticking a long. So I must keep it up. Along with all the other challenges I set myself.

The sculptor works daily and many of his Facebook comments remark about his process, his relentlessness, his speed and if or not he ever rests. I think he has a keen awareness that the physicality of his work may be that one day he will not be as able to work with the same energy.

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‘Defeated’ in progress

Working on the Mother and Child collection in the studio

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When I think about why I haven’t been writing, it’s because I have been reading and walking. All of which require a certain pace and both I do far to fast. On a family Sunday walk this weekend my husband told me slow down. I didn’t need to be walking so fast. I skim read because I want to get to the end of the story. I am highly aware at the moment that I am  rushing the children constantly with barking orders.

The mindful art of being in the moment is also the ability to slow down, to be present truly and focus on what you are doing in that moment.

On the other hand, my writing project has halted at the first hurdle of editing and ordering chapters. I dart around from one project to the other not yet finding a steady pace to it all. Despite the sculptor’s speed and seemingly unrelenting pace, he always has the ability to be in the moment. I think this is what gives him the ability to harness the imagination an creativity into the creation. I have just finished reading (too quickly) one of the most beautiful reads. A book which made me realise I need to slow down the moments, really understand what my, earlier in the year, daily yoga challenge was teaching about taking in a deep breath and changing pace.

Practice and the art of freeing ourselves from possessions

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Many people I spoke to in March had a miserable month. With the change of the clocks, lighter evenings and daffodils and lambs appearing perhaps April will bring a solution, a peace and a resolve. Listening to the radio the other day, the broadcaster said she had observed as she got older she was acutely more aware of the seasonal change. Perhaps there is truth in that, as we grow older we become more in-tune with natures cycles and the awareness that everything perishes and then there is life. I can’t fully remember what and why I was telling the boys the other day, that sometimes we have tests or difficulties and then we meet people who are having greater tests and we are reminded and humbled into realising our own blessings.

I feel that too at the moment. I feel March was a testing month. I am constantly being reminded that I need to develop greater patience and calm. I think part of my personal turbulence has been to do with sorting out boxes from the attic in an attempt to de-clutter and make more space. It is a strange process and looking back at letters in boxes from as far back as 1986 re-lives a little of your own personal history and also reading others stories from past. I have come to realise with my husband’s wisdom; that the past is the past and no need to be relived. Inspired by an American guy who has just totally reduced his possessions to 111 that he is carrying on his back. I am determined to reduce the amount of ‘just stuff’ I have. Although, I am still unsure how to get rid of much of my memorabilia. How much do our possessions take over us?

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I usually only post images of finished works, yet sometimes I think it is good to see the process. This also is such a different technique but shows the skill of my husband’s hands. When I first saw this piece I said, it reminds me of William Tell. Who is William Tell, my husband asked. I couldn’t remember just the story of the boy with the apples on his head. So I did a little research. He was the archer and the boy his son. He was asked to bow down to the leader of the area and he refused. So he was asked to shoot one of his arrows through an apple positioned on top of his son’s head. He successfully shot the apple. The leader noticing a second arrow asked what it was for. Tell, said if he had missed and killed his son the second arrow was for the leader. The swiss fable became a story of liberty and freedom.

Sculpture 3As I try to free myself from my attachment to letters and souvenirs, I wonder how much possessions actually weighs us down, literally and metaphorically, some how. In general as  a society we seem to attach more sentimentality to our things now more than some people do to other people.

My husband generally purchases more than I do but he never gets attached to it. Even his work. This masterful sculpture looks like it should be cast in bronze or marble. He started talking about colouring it in ways that match his current work. For example, the entire piece gloss black with just the top of the apple in red, or different coloured sections on the head…..

However, these images are not only the process but now the memory. The piece no longer exists. ‘How could you do that,?’ I asked my husband, as he showed me images of the head looking like a claw had swiped through it. ‘It only took me a couple of hours to make, it’s a practice. Not something to remain’. He is also a bit wary of making realistic portraits. It looks like days, months of work but it isn’t for my husband. He is fast and precise. Making something ‘real’ looking isn’t what his current practise is about. This was just to keep his hands in clay, just a process. Practising.

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Barnsley and Dash

Today the sculptor has gone for a little look at Barnsley Civic. So, I am ‘dog’ watching and ‘shop’ sitting – I say that with hesitancy as I am still catching up with the idea of both these endeavours. Slightly more confident in dealing with customers wanting a kitchen than the puppy training at present. For the first five minutes, I thought it was going to my usual madness, as he started chewing the pee-pad and gnawing on the boxes and the postman opened the door and he almost escaped. But a bit of a tug-of war with his rope toy calmed him down and he’s been sleeping since and I have been reading and writing making me feel more adept at business and dog owner responsibilities. I am just on alert that if the door opens he doesn’t dash out. Hence his name.

I read today that they have selected the four artists for the Hepworth prize. I feel slightly disgruntled that my husband is not one of them but bearing in mind this is not like the Turner prize, as they like to point out, you can be over 50 and indeed two of the nominees are in their 70’s. There is hope for the future yet and perhaps by 2018 (my husband will still be in his 40’s) we will have ticked a few more boxes for whatever it is they are looking for. Although, the other two are much younger, it’s an interesting range of ages not so sure about the art work ‘sculpture’ definitely has some interesting definitions these days.

Lots of new work is being created in the studio and a large body of work coming together under the theme ‘Blues in Motherhood’. Glossy pictures not yet ready of this one, so here is a sneak preview of the largest piece so far in this collection standing at 280cm high. The title of the piece appropriate as a few things recently I have been unsure as to whether to announce or not. Will write more on this piece when the photos are ready.

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A quick peek of ‘Annunciation,2016’ in the studio

This trip to Barnsley may even be one of those things that helps along the path to recognition in the art world. For some people Barnsley might not be an art capital but the space seems pretty impressive and it is right in the middle of the sculpture triangle; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Hepworth Wakefield and Henry Moore Institute, so hopefully it is a good start. The aim is that we may have a solo exhibition of Mother and Child sculptures by the end of the year.

For the first time I am unsure what to title my ‘post.’ I often finish writing and it becomes clear but ‘Barnsley and Dash’ is all I could come with and reminds me of  Dandelion and Burdock, state flower for Barnsley, apparently.

Read, Write, Draw, Sculpt.

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Sculpture framing painting ‘The Thinker’

I have been reading much more recently partly because family and friends have gifted me good books and writing courses (very grateful and much enjoying). I am also more aware of how reading helps my writing and have started reading more factual history books too, this always starts off with great enthusiasm on my part and then quickly wanes as it requires far more concentration and mental athletics. I am trying to slow down my reading and take in each word rather than scan the page just to get to the next chapter and really take it in more. This is tricky, especially when I just want to get to the end of a good book. It affects me though I find, reading alters my mood.

 

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Section of sculpture framing ‘Sisters’ painting
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Looking through one sculpture towards another

 

Emotions definitely have the impact to change us, our feelings can be seen visually in body shape, facial expression and mood. All I want to do when reading a book is read and be in the book, everything else becomes secondary, I feel I become the character(s) only when it is well written. At the moment can’t understand how someone can create this. I can only get so far in my attempts to draw up a fictional person with words. A scene or one moment. Some of these writing exercises are making me think more visually and using words to describe, it’s like sketching verbally. The sculptor uses emotions both observed and experienced in both his paintings, drawings and sculptures. His work is a visual diary, both his drawing and his making. Drawing inspiration from the everyday.sketches

Sketches, visual thoughts, pictorial diary

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