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.

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Nostalgic boat race day poem

As I sit down, all my heavy pounds

and lick my lips after a tasty dish,

I’ve spent the afternoon cooking,

dipping in and out of hearing the Cox shout,

the oarsman and woman both,

battle the course of the river head,

I feel sorrow for the rower in me dead,

long ago now in a life I once knew,

experienced that no pain, no gain too,

the strength and the will power in me still,

as I battle the determination of two boys that fill,

all my leftover energies now,

I look out at the sunny spring eve,

wonder if I can run up the hill…how?

I’ve eaten well.

My tummy too full.

I race in my mind and in spirit.

knowing, remembering that once, I did it.

the family cut out
‘The Family’ (2016) Sam Shendi

Paintings and Puppets

This is a week late in the posting as I have been a bit out of it for a few days. So it was actually two weekends ago that the boys and I took part in a puppet parade. Whenever I hear from others about interesting events they’ve taken part in or exciting adventures there is always that feeling that these things are good, happy, enjoyable, ‘perfect’ occasions. In a social media world where we upload images of a fleeting moment we can easily forget that life is not always easy breezy. I write this as a precursor to the fact that after two weekends of making the puppets or recycled 3D bugs which in itself had it’s own ups and downs.

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Skipton puppet festival parade start. One of the puppets someone had made.
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Puppet parade skipton

The day of the parade my eldest, whom we had done this activity for was really not well. Despite this, I dragged him out with an additional reluctant younger son insisting on bringing his scooter.

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Our butterfly reluctantly held by son with scooter.
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Poorly boy carrying his dragon fly

I don’t think I had properly thought through the fact that a parade meant we would be walking through the streets with the world watching (or rather a select crowd of local puppet enthusiasts and families on outings). So I walked shyly with the butterfly my younger son and I had made, as he refused to help hanging his skeleton face-painted head over his scooter crying down the high street. Whilst my eldest son forced a smile through his shivering and looked the colour of his green coat  suffering with the weight of his dragon fly. I pretend not to think that anyone saw them kicking each in the other in the shins mid parade as elder son increased in frustration at younger son’s lack of enthusiasm which caused disagreements and unsettlement mid walk. Big sigh. I then had to carry 2 puppets and a scooter, queue for pizza and wait for twenty minutes whilst the boys found a pew to watch a puppet performance. I am sure it was throughly entertaining but I failed to enter the packed marquee overladen with objects.

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Cactus Painting by Sam Shendi (2015)

It’s this reality of emotion that we display visibly in our bodies and faces that my husband depicts in his sculptures and newly composed paintings. Paintings which have taken place in the back yard and now, kitchen as the October rain pours down to balance the sunny September we had. The kitchen floor is splattered with paint, the cereal bowls covered in cling film to keep colours fresh and brushes litter the sink. The reality of the artist’s house. The up side of this is enjoying having Baba at home working rather than at the studio or away. We have all enjoyed coming home from school to be greeted with Baba’s great smile and open arms and an occasional cooked tea! In the morning the boys have loved being involved in the decision making of colours and concepts to try.

Life is full of it’s high and low moments. I saw a great check list recently of when things overwhelm or over face us to remember the reality of the world around us.

Isolated painting
Isolated Painting by Sam Shendi (2015)

So we change the thought; ‘I can’t move around the kitchen due to washing maiden and several 4ft canvases’ to a more positive, ‘but at least I have a house full of people in my life sharing a space which is warm and dry’. I have more washing up to do but at least we have food to eat and utensils to eat with. I am tired and achy and probably have what my son has but I have a strong immune system to fight infection and I am alive.

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The Mime, Painting by Sam Shendi (2015)

An answer to Moore’s Daughter; ‘all is not lost, there is form in Shendi’

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‘Mother and Child’ by Sam Shendi 2015

Two people very independently but both very close and beautiful souls sent me the article in The Guardian which Mary Moore (Henry Moore’s Daughter) states that Hirst has sent art back by 100 years. Perhaps they could see that the article would interest me on a number of levels.

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Mother and Child, from the back
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‘Mother and child’

Exploring the human figure, shape and ‘finding freedom within form’ are the focus of much of both sculptor’s pieces. Observing the human condition, using the human figure, reclining or mothers and child a link of the source of inspiration. In fact some of the earlier work of my husband’s has a very Moore like quality to it. But, dare I say  I believe my husband’s work continues the line of work that Moore started.

It is all about seeing things within that form and from different angles. Looking at the images of this piece every angle in a digital images looks like a different image. Like Mary says about her father’s work, about ‘exploring the invented object’ in front of you.’ In a modern 21st century contemporary setting with the addition of colour and focus on outline in an attempt of abandoning form as a mass, my husband’s work takes it to the next stage in development, thought process or idea. Yes artists like Damien Hirst may be relying on the title and have put the form back in the frame. However, there is always a reaction and response within the art world. Laconic titles such as ‘Mother and Child’ which my husband uses harps back to old masters such as Moore, giving you an indication to the form but allowing you to use your own imagination and interpretation for the rest.

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Mother – in yellow and pink, Child – red and blue
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‘Mother and Child’

We have become a two-dimensional digital age , a world of flat screens and it is why education is increasingly important about shape and form. Otherwise these skills will be lost. It was so interesting reading what Moore’s Daughter said about her childhood with her father as a sculptor, playing with clay, thinking about thees qualities of light, shape and space. I observe the boys interaction and how they relate to their father, the sculptor in similar ways. Although this winter the studio has been a little out-of-bounds, we are all looking forward to the sunnier warmer days of playing round the studio. In the article which was highlighting the new exhibition of Henry Moore’s work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Moore said she hoped the show would encourage people “to explore what is in front of them with an open mind and in a fresh way, so that they might re-evaluate or see things that they have never seen, understand things they have never understood. I hope it generates excitement about sculpture.” I think my husband’s work is creating small slow ripple of excitement in the art world and I really hope one day we will be able to get his work into Yorkshire Sculpture park. Seeing Shendi alongside Moore, what a spectacular way of seeing sculpture that would be.

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The shadows create additional images
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‘Section of Mother and Child’

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

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.

The evolution of ‘Evolution’.

It has been a welcome break to be offline and unplugged for a month. However in today’s world I am not sure how possible it is to keep that up. We have evolved into an online society. So much  has been happening in the ‘Sculptural World’ I am not sure I can catch up with what has past. So will have to run with real-time and tell you what is happening today and coming up this month. In all things Yorkshire, we have two solo exhibitions happening locally.

This evening we open at Damside Mill ‘Evolution’ an exhibition about the journey of work over the last 14 years. An interesting collection of work from the bronze beginnings to the recent modern minimalism. Join us tonight for the preview:

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At the same time ‘Evolution’ the sculpture has moved from its first location outside ‘The Royal British Sculpture Society’ and now stands proudly in Lister Park awaiting the accompaniment of two other larger piece for ‘Art in the Park’. We are also getting ready for the exhibition  ‘Only Human’ at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery which opens on August 13th and runs until February 2015. It seems serendipitous that I have been visiting this place since I was 10, worked there and last year our eldest son learnt to ride his bike in this exact spot. As a family we have been on a journey through this creative space. Would highly recommend a visit.

'Evolution' in Lister Park, Bradford
‘Evolution’ in Lister Park, Bradford

The Family

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‘The Family’

This piece is the third in the series ‘Beginnings’ and entitled ‘The Family’ included as the start of community, the point from which generations follow. The beginnings of so many events, feelings, memories, a microcosm of the world.

In recent days I have felt for those families affected by the missing plane in Malaysia. The impact on relatives of those sentenced in Egypt. The families suffering in Syria. When a catastrophe hits an individual it has repercussions on the whole family.

This piece depicts the connection between Father, Mother, Child. The precarious nature of this is visual and from one angle we see Mother and Child with only the thin line of ‘Father’ and from the other angle ‘The Father’ is dominant. The idea that genetic character traits we inherit from our parents and grandparents in some fashion shape who we are.

'The Family' (Mother and Child)
‘The Family’ (Mother and Child)

The Family is a complex and intricate balance. As a unit it encompasses all the emotions we can feel. Individual families can be so different and  diametrically so similar.  Within our own family unit, the fact that we are mixed culture makes this very interesting to experience and learn from, both shared and different values and traditions. For a while I thought this was unique but actually with  increased discussions with families even where both parents are from the same country a difference in backgrounds and upbringing can create stumbling blocks and need for comprises when children become that shared responsibility.

For me the colour in this piece also has some meaning, the connection between the Mother’s head as yellow and the child as yellow displaying the way a mother’s mind is preoccupied with her child but also the vision of hope for the future, for the next generation. The peaceful white body of the mother connected to the father with ‘red’ for passion, love, heat, anger, attention, warmth, protection. The symbolism of this simplistically and elegantly piece shows all this as it portrays the ‘family unit’

'The Family'
‘The Family’
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The Family’
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‘The Family Unit’

 

It’s a wrap

Just a quick post about the busy evening we are having. Our kitchen is the largest room in the house so is the place we can get jobs done. So this evening I have been wrapping presents for the festive season. Actually re-wrapping them as my husband had kindly wrapped them this morning whilst I was out thinking he was helping which he was, except I had a very creative theme going on in my head for them all. So whilst I enjoyed my creativity and wrapping the gifts, my husband at the other end of the table was making his maquette for the First@108 award. He was literally beading sweat, drilling and assembling but finally finished. My back was aching from standing for so long but we are now all wrapped up.

We are also in the process of writing the proposal and still have that to finish. Tomorrow my sister in law arrives from Egypt to join us for christmas time and this next week will get sucked into festivities with my family. I can’t for obvious reasons put up a picture of the maquette and although my present wrapping is an art form in itself and a funny story of ours I thought this sculpture, ‘family’ was appropriate for the holiday period. Time to spend with family, forgive family, and to remember that family is a gift more cherished than any material gift you give or receive.

My wrapping story, if you are interested and to cut a long story short is that I won a scotch tape gift wrapping competition in London which then resulted in a feature of my wrapping a garden gnome on a daytime TV show using a Scotch wrist dispenser device. The only problem was before I went on to the set live I was told I couldn’t say the brand Scotch I had to say tape. Of course, the main point was that I was there as part of PR to the Scotch brand. Well, I am still surprised I wasn’t dragged off. It would have been great if I had carelessly forgotten and said ‘scotch’ anyway but oh no I said se-lotape all the way through. The local TV news was a slight improvement, definitely not cut out for TV. I will stick to hiding behind a screen instead!

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