We are only human after all

Most of the work my husband sculpts forms part of a collection, a group of sculptures under the same title. The latest finished collection is, “Only Human”, born from ideas taken from human phrases. Phrases we use in conversation that has then shaped the form of these vessels. Human beings are fallible, we are not perfect and we can only strive for improving ourselves.  Always  makes me think of the song, “Human” by Rag’n’bone, as the boys did a Viking song based on the rhythm and we had the song going around our head constantly. ” We are only human after all, don’t put your blame on me.” Human beings are no longer a subject of focus on a daily basis and in many ways have become devalued. Alex Rodgers wrote a book with the same name about the current issues and problems young people face in today’s society.

Each sculpture is created as a human figure whilst simultaneously acting like a canvas which if stretched out would give you an abstract colourful painting, showing that emotion has a colourful impact on human energy and action. These pieces are a frozen body movement which has been shaped by the emotion to allow you to understand that each one of them is only a presentation of who you are. The colour e describes the emotion hidden within the piece and is a completion of the actual concept. Our emotions are so powerful, if we look back at the past mankind uses this emotion to direct not just thousands but millions.

All these pieces have been hand carved using various materials and then painted. Many people can have a create talent, they can draw, paint, take a photography or work with clay or wood. It is something again to bring something out from an imagination of an idea or concept and one in which you are telling a story. In an attempt to be more organised the next series of blog posts I will go through each one in turn, but for now you can think of your own  titles for the pieces.

Only Human. Sam Shendi. 2017.


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Shendi sculptures are ‘essentialism’

When writing blurbs or bits and pieces for galleries, agents and articles we often describe my husband’s work as minimal, referencing the sixties minimalistic movement and stripping the human form down to the bare essentials.

In my own recent quest for minimising the home, trying to contain our family in a small northern English terrace house, I discovered Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” Just a few pages in it dawned on me that, the way of the essentialist, is very much the way of the sculptor. ‘The relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way”.

Originating from Aristotle, the term ‘essentialism’ is the idea that everything has an essential nature to it. Plato, too was one of the first essentialists, believing in the concept of ideal forms.

Our youngest has asked a few times, “Why don’t you do arms Baba”. The sculptor answers making the point that they aren’t necessary. I have heard him speak about how Egyptian sculpture lasted longer than Roman sculpture because there were no weak points. An almost ideal form that could remain. Roman sculpture today stands without arms because they have been lost to the elements where as the ancient Egyptians made no gaps between arm and torso. The Egyptians knew what was essential but also had a style that would remain in tact. It is in the taking away that more is added, and in this case time.

Not only does my husband sculpt in an essentialist way I feel he lives his life to that aim. He lives by design (pardon the pun)  perhaps it goes hand in hand, he is so ruthless in his pursuit of sculpting and because he is not yet a full-time artist his time has to be used to purposefully. He has a, “disciplined, systematic approach for determining where his highest point of contribution lies, and then his execution of these things appear to be almost effortless”. That effortlessness makes it easy to think that it is un-challenging or un-demanding and consequently, I become forgetful of how hard he works.

In this journey from realism to the minimal my husband’s work takes away all that is not essential to the story he is telling. “An Essentialist thinks almost everything is non-essential”. For the pieces are like three-dimensional stories in a very contemporary, minimal form. Play is an important part of our development because it doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself. My husband’s work is playful in the use of colour but also the shapes and themes which are provoked.

‘The essential life is living a life that really matters, a life lived without regret. If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your tie and energy in it then it is difficult to regret the choice you make. You become proud of the life you have chosen to live.”

In short, I think Sam Shendi is up there as one living an essential life and consequently his master pieces mould into an art movement of Essentialism. Then of course I should say, it is essential that they are seen, that the work is viewed and appreciated by the many. This is what the sculptor is working so hard to achieve.

Getting back into a routine and flow

Apparently it is 2 months since I last posted and I have been very aware of that fact but I just haven’t been able to sit down and write. It was the summer months with the boys off school and other things seem to have taken over in my to-do list. So I have slowly been getting back into my routine but still need to be a bit more productive when it comes to blogging! I have been a little too preoccupied with Instagram which I have just discovered, although haven’t completely got my head around it yet. I have also done lots of interesting reading. In one book which I will relate to more in my next post (see getting a bit organised!) the chapter opening is entitled, ‘Flow. The Genius of Routine. Routine , in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition -W.H. Auden.  Although, generally my husband I would describe is not quite a creature of habit as am I but when it comes to the studio he definitely is in a routine and it pays off. Over the summer the following pieces went to new homes:

Defeated Butterflies, in his new home in Johannesburg
‘The Wedding Dress’ in her new home in Johannesburg

 

 

‘The King and Queen’, in their new home in SouthSea

‘Witnesses’ in the entrance to the Tennis Club in South-sea
Press Article in South Africa

 

Sky, Earth, Water

I have caught some beautiful days this summer. Wandering. Walking. Captivated by the clouds and flowers this year. Always looking up for some loftier inspiration. I dart around like the swallows in my pursuit for easier homemaking, exercise, minimising and reducing waste, writing and looking after our business and the boys. Reminded recently about the need to be grateful for the place where we are at, both  mentally and physically. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Sometimes grounding ourself in the importance of seeing something through, brings us back to earth.

Sky Earth Water (2016)

Why the long face, soul so beautiful?

Soul so beautiful

Oh soul, so light, so beautiful

This world is just too much for you

Your feet are treading softly

On broken glass

The pain seeps from your skin

Your eyes flicker of the sadness within

As you clamber to hold

on to the day

The mind is a wild garden

over grown, lost, forgotten

bird songs echo of

the silent tears you weep

‘Long Face’, Sam Shendi at Graham’s Gallery Johannesburg

Tonight is the night

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.

gallery outsidelarge posterposter2

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.

unveiling

Yesterday, he had interviews.magazine art timein coversation

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.

Here is a sneak preview :

sneak peak 1sneak peaak 2

Creative Education

family portrait
Family Portrait (2016)

I thought that following my perhaps, sorrowful sounding poem, in my last post; I should qualify that I don’t in anyway regret the decision to stop rowing. I had a fleeting thought where I wondered why I didn’t follow through with doing the PGCE course at Cambridge, from where I could have followed through with rowing after my degree more easily than rowing out of London but I wouldn’t be where I am now if that had happened. Fate. My parents are both teachers and coincidently both ‘the sculptor’s’ parents were. I feel there is something about education which is in our blood, but both myself and my two siblings have probably intentionally avoided it. Which is why I probably didn’t go through with the PGCE course!

So my relationship with my boys education is quite impassioned. After going to parents evening the other week it is apparent that both boys are naturally creative. I guess it’s in the genes. As much as I am impressed by both their individual teachers and the creativity that has been covered. I wish for them a more creative led education system. I am not sure this current system will display the bright sparks they are. But does that really matter?

Part of me wishes that I had the energy, resources and space to home school them. So that learning could be child-creative led. In today’s world I am not sure there is such a need to be solely focused on Maths and English and the level for a 6 year old seems absurd. I am not sure I could answer some of the SAT’s questions on the Key stage one paper. Yet they also do interesting topic work but I am not sure what that teachers them per say.

right brainEducation should not be about ticking boxes or getting grades. It should be about learning, exciting and encouraging learning as a life long process. My six year old’s teacher said that, ‘you can tell he sees drawing as work’. However, if you ask him what he likes at school he will say, “Art” and what he doesn’t like is “working”. Surely all learning needs to be seen as fun for as long as possible. If sitting a six year old down for fractions and finding a verb in a sentence is hard work it leave little for when they are 16 surely.

I also think achievement in school does not necessarily correlate with life achievement or career achievement.  It is difficult to compare my husband’s education, he was schooled in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Fate. His education really started when he was at university in Cairo, which was free but that’s a whole other issue. So I could rant on but instead will  introduce this new collection. The Family Portrait, it is one of a set which is a smaller sized collection which I will try and cover over the next few weeks.

Heads together

heads-and-sculptor
‘The rough collection’ (2016) Sam Shendi

My husband seems to be able to tap into some subliminal subconscious web of communication. There have been several times where he has been working on something which parallels what is happening else where.

These heads were created at the end of last year. Usually working to a smooth, perfected finish these pieces are the opposite. Rough and ready to represent the experiences in life that leave a mark and shape us. Entitled; ‘Mr Green’, ‘Mr Blue’, ‘Mr White’, ‘Mr Red’ and ‘Mr Grey’, colours often symbolising mood, emotion, feelings, expressions. I have put this image with the sculptor in the scene to show the scale of them. As a group, ‘Head’s together’ which yesterday I stumbled across is a campaign, http://www.headstogether.org.uk ,which is spearheaded by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is raising the awareness of “unresolved mental problems” and “wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.”

sketch
Sketch by Sam Shendi
mr-blue
Mr Blue (2016) Sam Shendi

I thought it would be interesting to show a sketch and sculpture together for a change. I love seeing the lines on paper and then the shift into three dimensions. The bird symbolises the idea of voices or the noise pecking away at the mind.

Mental health has huge stigma, often misunderstood and a reoccurring theme in my husband’s work partly I think because of his increasing awareness of how much it was hidden and not spoken of growing up in rural Egypt. It’s the same here in the UK but with media and celebrities speaking out it is something being uncovered and discussed more and more. It would appear it is a global issue on the rise of being discussed. Again, these pieces show a visual story. A visual interpretation of a subject, theme, idea which we all have connection with an experience of, a shared similarity beyond the differences of culture, class, education, gender.

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:

thinker
‘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.