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

The Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti in colour

Colour, Egyptian
Four and sculpture

The sculptor and four of the Forbidden Sculptures collection.

In this heat and sunlight everything seems more vibrant and lustrous. So the images of the Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti are here in colour. Last night there was a little coolness for a brief moment and I had sudden inspiration but forgot to write anything down and back again in the heat I can no longer remember what words. It is so hot in the showroom I can’t think. So words will be a limit here and the images say it all.

The story is in last weeks post.

Understanding other cultures (and sculptures)

collections, Connections, Egyptian, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching
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‘Defender’ 2017 Only Human Collection

This was the first piece the sculptor made in ‘The Only Human’ collection and I am writing about it last as we round-up this collection of work. At the moment a few of this collection are on display in London, until the end of August. (link)

If you have spent time within a different culture then you’ll know how sometimes somethings can seem baffling, unusual and can challenge your way of thinking. Alternatively there are experiences which can be preferable or that you may want to adopt. Either way a new or different culture can open us up to a new ways of seeing.

When I was younger I remember my Father, who is a teacher, doing a school assembly on the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant , it cleverly demonstrates how a person can have one way of seeing something very differently to another and it affecting their interpretation of that idea. Culture can be very much like that.

I was fortunate to spend time in Japan at the age of 18 which opened my eyes to sights, sounds, smells and tastes that were totally new to me. My first image of a lady walking a cat on a lead, wearing what looked like a surgical mask over her face was definitely a diary entry. Green tea that tasted bitter, bland tofu and miso fish was a first meal that made me wonder if I would survive my 6 months there, such a lover of food am I. This was also back in the days before we had any of these food flavours and products available in the UK. Now matcha lattes and ramen bowls are all on trend. My eldest even requested sushi for one of his school lunches! Japanese food in lots of small little bowls and chop sticks whilst siting on the floor was certainly something I fell in love with, along with the house design and contemplation of nature and tranquility.

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‘Madame Butterfly’ Calligraphy collection

On Saturday evening we went to see the Opera, Madame Butterfly, a Christmas gift from my parents.  My husband had already seen it before in Cairo which had inspired him to make the sculpture above, titled after the opera and a very different style and material to ‘Defender’. The Alhambra opera used shadows in the performance at at the weekend to depict some of the scenes. So I loved the connection between the set design and this piece.

The Japanese culture could be summed up in two words, honour and respect and this is very much what fuels the tragic ending of the opera. Japanese design and living is about capturing the beauty then discarding the rest.  ‘Madame Butterfly’, the sculpture from the Calligraphy collection (also a Japanese art form) nods to this etiquette in that it is displaying only what is essential in exploring outline rather than playing with form.

In contrast to ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Defender’ is all mass and form. It is interesting how seeing something from a different angle can influence how we look at something. Writer, Cherry Smyth when first viewing this piece describes; “In ‘Defender’ (2016) the buffed, open arms of the upright, stocky animal –human hybrid end in what could be black hooves. It tilts its head as if ready to take on anything that comes, and its stolid black and yellow torso is built to impress. For Shendi, the figure represents the ‘defender we all need from time to time.’ It could also suggest the super-ripped gym bodies we increasingly seek, that render the limbs less agile and flexible for the sake of a pose of durability.”

The sculptor didn’t make ‘Defender’ with Egypt in mind, but it was a consideration for placing in an outdoor area in Cairo at one point. The idea of needing a defender is fitting for Egypt and the contrast between these two sculptures is very much like the Japanese and Egyptian culture.

My next big culture experience was at 21 in Egypt, I cried at the airport in Cairo not wanting to leave at the end of my travels. This was way before I was to meet my own Egyptian Sculptor. Funny how fate intervenes. My heart planted a root unbeknown to me. But travelling for a few weeks through a country is not the same as being immersed in one. Although I have since been back several times and am now married to an Egyptian. Egypt is a complex one and certainly less ordered, neat and tidy than the Japanese. It’s almost antithetical in every way.

CLASH is an Egyptian film set in Cairo during the 2013 protests. It portrays the claustrophobic intimacy of a police vehicle where the viewer witnesses the intense heat, no water and over crowded conditions of the van. In many ways it parallels the country as a whole. The individuals in the van display kindness and anger within seconds. Emotions flare up in all directions and we see the injustice, senseless behaviour that is a country at war with itself as so are the people it is made up of. Perhaps, ‘Defender’ is for those moments like in the van, breaking down barriers, pushing past the intensity of the stiffling experience and the personalities which almost smother each other.

It’s hard to sum up Egypt in two words and that really says it all. It is a multitude of attacks on all the senses. Yet the exotic history, heat, passion and flare all give it a romanticism that entices you in. There is a saying once you have tasted the waters of the Nile you have to go back. Maybe, that is for the ‘foreigner’ but for the Egyptian, the corruption and disorder and preference for the outsider make it a very different reality.

Just like with these art works I could not choose which culture I prefer over the other. They both appeal to different sides of me. Perhaps two parts that reside in all of us. We can often choose to dig in our heels and defend what we first think to be our opinion about things. It’s often a good idea to check our thinking and question why we have that point of view.

Only then can we understand others but, not only that, we can understand ourselves.

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‘Defender’ side angle

 

 

Sun, sea, sand sculptures ( and some ancient writing on the wall)

Egyptian

Years used to be punctuated in school holidays, more so because my parents were both teachers. Gradually this shifted in my 20’s to January being a month of heavy diary entries, promises to improve and a new way of seeing the world. Last year a list of three things. The first I achieved daily, the second a little in the last two weeks of the year and I can’t even remember what the third one was. Such is the way of resolutions.

2015 has begun in cocoon not even realising a sense of time or day. 18 days of sunshine, with sea air was the tonic to an intense and busy four years. I sat starting out at sea and wondered why we like to find peace in vast open nothingness. I heard somewhere that the sea is the world’s consciousness. Perhaps, we stare at the blank blue canvas which give us a mirror to our own conscious being. For the boys the days on the beach with the sculptor were playing and digging resulting in these:

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Now we have to dig in and start again or get back on the treadmill of reality. So I slowly uncurl after being spoilt with an amazing trip and focused family time. Having been in the sun and coming back to the cold is a little disorinatating and the new year seems meaningless. It has made me realise how arbitory time is. When we looked at the creations of the ancient Egyptians the mind blowing factor was just how long ago it was created and that it was all for the afterlife. The creativity of humanity with the drawings and the pigmentation within the desert showed their skill and precision and search for meaning.

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Each time I go to Egypt I learn something, somehow the country challenges your comfort zones. Perhaps this is more so because my husband is Egyptian and this time I realised more than ever that I am raising two Egyptian boys. They thrived in the heat, they learnt some arabic and displayed their social skills meeting family for the first time and making friends everywhere they went. I embrace this for them, the uniqueness of having two cultures so diverse and so contrasting and hope that they can use the best of both for themselves. I have lots of little anecdotes and stories but feel it would make this too long. We are back to the every day life of juggling work and art. The boys struggled last night knowing Baba was going away, even just for one night, having had such quality time with him. The Sculptor is already in London collecting the appropriately named; ‘The Family’ from it’s stay in Berkley square London and this last week has been busy packaging up ‘The Kiss’ which we say goodbye to and send to Panama on its new journey.

So we use the ancient writing on the wall to move forward, the sun’s energy to give us strength to get through a grey January and the thoughts of the sea to develop our consious awareness. It’s the start of a busy year for the sculptor and so for all of us on this journey of art and meaning.

Windows of antiquity

Colour, Connections, Egyptian, Galleries, Making, Mother and Child, Old Masters, Soul searching

'Pregnant, in the window at Rupert Cavendish, London'

It’s interesting how shop windows are designed to pull people in where as in our homes we put up blinds and curtains to stop people looking in. Understandably of course, we don’t want to attract people to peering into our windows. It makes me reflect on the beautiful Japanese homes I visited where the garden would be in the centre of the house and the walls would slide to let you open out into it. I don’t recall windows. Almost like little boxes with moving window walls.

I have often thought about the expression ”our eyes are windows to the soul”.  For a painter the eyes are symbolic of romance, passion, mystic. For a sculptor the eye is always dead, whatever the scale of the sculptor ‘s ability there is no way of creating it. Perhaps that is proof enough that our soul is visible through the eye.

To contrast from my last two blog entries, not so locally, in Kings Road London ‘Pregnant’ the piece by my husband has been positioned cleverly in the centre mirroring the geometric shapes in the painting behind (Andrew Burgess). Quite an impressive window display. Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently put that,” the eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul” this is so much more expressive. There is something, rich and fine about antique objects and to indicate the depth of soul in such away gives more meaning than simply a window.

The piece stands out within this antique setting as the modern colours are bold and vibrant against the classical soft browns and blues. With the universal rules of mathematical proportion but the quirky playful touch reminding us it is modern day.However, it is not lost here. Like some futuristic object that has found a home amongst fellow works of art, its antiquity resonates. A real masterpiece in the window. It stamps Egyptian style, drawing on the antiquities of the past.