Portugal with Art Catto

collections, Colour, Galleries, Mother and Child

When I was younger, I think I had the illusion that if you find yourself a mate you would then happily sit in a nest together looking out at the world. However, that isn’t what I have found to be true and not what has worked for me. For us, we fly down different valleys and then return to the nest to share tales of what we have seen and heard. That way, we see more of the world and are able to share a nest as well.

When the sculptor goes gallivanting off to sunny shores for exhibitions I really don’t have any desire to go with him. Over the past few years he has been to South Africa, Germany, Belgium and several trips to London. Perhaps, once the boys are older and no longer have the same need for me, I might go but whilst they are still young I’d rather be with them as an anchor. I am not sure how honest this is. However, he is there to work not to holiday. Also, because we work together it is actually quite good to get a little break! Actually, I think I would like to go on my own solo holiday and I have been reading about how for some women this is really important. I do think I perhaps should have spent more time on self care when the boys were smaller. However, I think this has only become a really ‘buzz’ concept over the last couple of years.

When it comes to travelling my husband and I have very different approaches which doesn’t make it the most relaxing of experiences for me. At these exhibition openings he is there for a purpose. He needs to be able to mingle and chat and he does so apparently with ease but he gets so so nervous before hand. On this trip he met a variety of people from all walks of life and he tells me everything in such detail, he is full of stories on his return. It is quite amazing to think of a young boy from a small village in northern Egypt now taking his work from the UK to Portugal. This collection of work is from the ‘Only Human’ collection and is presented by Art Catto at the Conrad hotel, Algarve.

The colours of the sculpture look awesome against the blue sky and green foliage. A true picture of summer. Meanwhile, whilst the sculptor was there struggling in the heat. I was running the shop, which actually is relatively straight forward with the addition of two boys as it was half term holidays and zero sunshine. My youngest, very active boy kept himself busy using a display fake peach, from the fruit bowl, as a football and scuffing all the plinths needless to say I didn’t keep the shop open for long. Except for a day when my parents took them to York for the day I had peace and quiet in the shop. So we survived and the week went past quite quickly. Interestingly, I had a fleeting moment before he went that I wouldn’t be able to do it all. I quickly realised that this was ridiculous and that I was more than capable of being able to do it all. I have been reading and listening to various things recently that confirm that what you are thinking and believing has so much impact on what happens. On the flip side of that, I had lots of ideas of what I would do whilst I had the evenings to myself but none of them really happened and I missed the sculptor more than I would admit. He is back now and the next project is Liverpool plinth….exciting stuff!

 

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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

Bonkers

Exhibitions, Public Art, Relationships

mermaid in building

Section of ‘The Mermaid’ in the reception of Aldgate Tower, London

Last week passed in a flash. A bonkers week! Having the sculptor back at home after his eight-day trip in London must have made the difference. Indeed he came back with stories and stuff, now strewn along the countertop in the kitchen. I thought I had finally cleaned and cleared for good this time! We may have converted the attic to a bedroom but now we need an office.

The week got so carried away that I forgot about writing and putting out a Friday blog. It’s a self-imposed deadline and it’s not as though I have thousands of follows falling off their seats waiting for my blog post to drop into the ether, however, this year I have found the structure of weekly writing helpful. I am still not sure how to increase readers though and I swing like a pendulum as to whether that is what I want or not.

I don’t feel I am back in a routine after the summer holidays  and with having a week of being at the shop (our kitchen business). I am looking forward to getting back into a routine. All a little bit altered with some changes in after school clubs and the boys now in different schools.

So last week the sculptures went straight from Saatchi, in a van with the sculptor to a new location in Aldgate Tower, London. It was decided that they looked best without plinths, appearing to come out of the ground.

However in the middle of last week we got a call to say the client wanted plinths, people were coming to close to them and probably other reasons too. Dutifully on Sunday the sculptor made a return trip to London with plinths. He was unfazed by this mainly I think because it is a new company we have started working with and  hopefully future potential. They do , however, look so much better on plinths.

I like this time of year as  the shift in seasons feels more distinct and reminder of and for change. Whilst the sculptor spent Sunday in the van, the boys and I enjoyed some autumnal sunshine in the woods after stressful morning of homework, don’t get me started on year 4 maths.

I had a little win in a lovely new shop and cafe which focuses on zero  waste. I filled up two lovely glass jars with hand soap and fabric conditioner for the washing machine, apparently you can make this from conkers. So it felt counter productive when you then have to go and buy plastic wrap to go round your child’s Spanish book all nicely covered with collage as part of his homework and even more so when you have to go and do it again because the first time round the purchase wasn’t clear plastic but a solid blue; though I am sure I read the label saying clear. It blatantly wasn’t clear enough.

Searching for conkers and then throwing against the wall for them to smash out of their shells was perfect therapy. We went bonkers for conkers, maybe even more so if we use it as soap.

aldgate building

Sam Shendi Sculptures in the reception of Aldgate Tower, London

 

 

End of a chapter

Mother and Child

 

 

It is our eldest’s last week, last day at primary school. Another chapter closes. I feel sadness that these days have passed so quickly, this academic year in particular and all the finalities that have occurred this week. However, I embrace the change that is to come with two schools, a change of after school routines and the life of secondary school. The youngest approaches his eighth birthday and I feel that also marks the end of the infant chapter.

Meanwhile, the sculptor has also decided to close the chapter on the hand carved figurative pieces. Advised that the more abstract minimal pieces are perhaps more unique and meet the demands of the art intellectual and philosophically minded.

I on the other hand feel I am opening chapters. I felt at the start of this year that 2018 would be a good one for me. Perhaps because the boys are reaching the ages of more independence and I can re-discover the things that makes the sculptor’s wife tick. I have been diligent about meeting goals I set at the beginning of the year. Half way through  reflecting that having a word for the year and goals has made such a difference. Maybe approaching the end of another decade assists in this new-found wisdom. I am mindful that I need to continue on with this through the 6 week summer holidays!

So I am re-posting images of Mother and child here to mark the end of these figurative collections and the end of this chapter of childhood.

Colours of the sun

collections, Egyptian

We seem to be racing to the end of term with school plays, world cup football matches (far too stressful), a few invoices to input for the business , re-starting a 6 week challenge and relentless sunshine and with all of that, I haven’t had much time or inclination to write. However, something in me has a strong sense of commitment to this self-imposed posting a blog entry on a Friday. Hoping I will be able to  keep it up over the summer holidays. We shall see.

The boys school play was Joseph and his technicolor dream-coat which because of the glorious weather was able to be performed outdoors. Colourful fabric was tied along the school fence. The last show, last swimming lessons, last trips. It marks the end of our eldest’s time through primary school. Have we seen the last of the sun? We certainly needed the rain today and a world cup final wasn’t meant to be. Making all the feel of being in a foreign country with a football team with a chance of winning the world cup a dream.

The twists and turns of life make it the interesting journey that it is. So in my interesting twist and a turn of a day, I could have made more links and references with a little more time but I am going to post this promptly .

Remember your hopes and dreams. They can still be a reality if you allow them to be.

For the story of these sculptures click on the link:   The Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti

4 colours and shendi

Sam Shendi with 4 of 8 pieces of the Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti collection

Start well

Connections, Egyptian, Galleries

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can” Arther Ashe.

We woke up to a wet Wednesday morning which was slightly unusual after a run of warm weather but the land certainly needed it. My morning routine has gone slightly  off the last few weeks, I recently discovered that starting your day well bodes for a productive one. It was just my youngest son and I this morning making for a relatively peaceful breakfast. The eldest is away on a week long school residential at an outdoor pursuits centre and the sculptor was up at 3.30am to make another trip to London. We received a confirmation email which drafted the running order for the evenings diner which stated; ‘After main course David invites Sam Shendi to say a few words’.

I felt about as nervous as doing our VAT return manually (which I have just done as I have been in the shop all day) and I am not even the one having to speak. He hasn’t prepared anything! I think we toyed with the idea for ‘STart’ as a business name, the first letters of our initials followed by art, sounded pretty good to me but somehow we came up with Arabesque. Big debate about who actually came up with that! However, START is the name of a five year running art fair now based in the prestigious Saatchi gallery.

So the sculptor drove down to Saatchi gallery with some sculptures for June’s collector’s club dinner. We are trying not to get too excited or hopeful that this could result in anything….it is so hard. Each opportunity we get feels like it could be the next big break but as of yet they are all just little steps, none of which enable us to project him into being a full time sculptor or breaking through into something more concrete. I don’t think the art world is concrete or sustained, but some indication we are in the right direction and some break through would be good. We remain patient (ish)!

On Tuesday evening our youngest and I watched the preamble to the Egypt v Russia World cup football match. The start of Salah’s life began from a small village in Northern Egypt. The start of Shendi’s life also began from a small village in Northern Egypt some twenty years prior to that. I thought of the parallels and the differences between Salah  and the sculptor. Sport and Art careers are very different but they are both reliant on that lucky break. My husband also spent a few years in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, so in some respects an even more untrodden path leading him yesterday down to London to Saatchi.

start

Whilst he was dining in the gallery, I cooked at home and then waited for a call. 11 o’clock he rang said it was, “‘expletive’ awesome” and that they had to pack up and drive back so he would tell me all later. Of course after that, I was too excited to sleep. 1am, 2am…think I got to sleep by 3am and the sculptor rolled in at 5am. Having thought yesterday was going to be coffee fueled day actually it was today. When the youngest and I returned from school/shop and after school activities the sculptor was still asleep and hasn’t stirred. So it is now Thursday night, summer solstice and I still don’t know what happened. The sculptor slept for 24 hours. Finally, this morning (Friday) at 5 am he gave me a run down of the event.

It was an exciting dinner with Saatchi CEO Nigel Hurst and Start Art Fair co- founder David Ciclitira. Making their acquaintance and being advised on which direction to take for his solo booth at the start art fair in September.

Quite appropriately this special piece below, entitled ‘The Diner’, points out the excessive spending on food and drink not just in rich societies but in poorer countries too whilst other parts of the world suffer with starvation. Whatever you are going to eat, whatever the cost within 6 to 8 hours it will be going down the toilet.

diner

‘The Diner’ 2011. Bronze. Sam Shendi

 

When I first met my husband (before he was my husband) he gifted me an amazing hand drawn sketch book he had won as a prize at university. When we were in Egypt on a visit to his village we went to his Auntie’s house and I commented on her dress (abaya), she went off to make tea and came back with a tray of drinks but wearing something different. The dress was now folded and gifted to me. Arab culture is renowned for their generosity, it is part of their hospitality. So at the dinner when David said he liked the piece, ‘The Diner’, the sculptor immediately said to him, “it’s yours”.

Today as we sit and talk through his plan for the START art fair in September (which I am very excited to go to, it will be my second ever trip away from the boys) my husband is talking about taking his coffee machine and water bottles to give to people. We have spoken out the layout, what to do with the walls and publicity material.

It is another step. Another part of the journey. It is all a start.

 

 

 

How to know reality?

Colour, Connections, Relationships, Soul searching

To follow last weeks post about the sculpture ‘Mademoiselle‘ and my memory of Paris, I will keep with the Paris theme. This week’s sculpture is The Woman in the Red Hat.

woman1

‘Woman in the Red Hat’, Sam Shendi 2017

 

Are Memories are identification? Our mind is made up of our thoughts and what we are thinking and believing.

When I was in Paris in February many years ago I was by myself. I wonder now if I had an image of Paris in the spring but it was really still winter and I didn’t have enough warm clothes with me. I rang my husband home in England who told me to go and purchase a jumper. I don’t know why that thought hadn’t occurred to me. Too often do I not realise that money is a tool to be used to our advantage. I am not sure I made a particularly good choice. Why didn’t I buy a lovely warm coat? Whatever money I had then or not doesn’t serve me now. So I came out of the shop with a rather thin pink hoodie and a brown skirt. I went into places to keep warm, museums, shops and boutiques. Bought some perfume and a pair of earrings. Took lots of photos and then decided to go to the hairdressers and dye my hair red. So with my splattering of French I communicated to the hairdresser who didn’t have much English that I wanted it short and red. I can visualise the small shop, myself sitting on the left hand side of the salon and there I spent a few warm hours and some more money. Back then I was young, had no responsibilities, no ties but I wasn’t as calm, content and settled as I am now.

Sometimes when we look at a snapshot in time we can project an idea, a thought, a reality that is or isn’t true. Today with all the social media tools and images people post we can start to easily believe that others have it easy, more care free, happier, better. Whatever. It can create jealousy, resentment, anger, mistrust.

It all begins with our own thinking. We make a moment, with what we think and feel at that point in time. Someone else’s photograph may capture smiles and sunshine but it doesn’t capture what that person is thinking and believing in that moment and it could be their version of hell.

Imagine a woman walking down the Champs Elysee in a red hat. Audrey Hepburn springs to mind. She walks confidently. Self assured. She knows what she wants and how to get it. Her mind is clear. She is free of all negative thoughts which could constrict her. She is free of worry or concern. Everything around her is there to serve her. She is happy and healthy. She wears her red hat unconcerned about what any one else thinks. She has black stilettos and a colourful dress which she choose that morning. She is going out for coffee and will probably have a croissant.  She is unconcerned about her appearance. She is happy with how she looks. She will sit at the cafe and read a while, watch the people walking past. She is happy to be alone. Alone with her thoughts. She questions constantly what she thinks and what she believes.

A day in the life

collections, Connections, Galleries

moving tiptoesculptures out

moving

Last week almost at the same time that I was writing about ‘Back biter’, we got an email enquiring about pieces from the Rudimentary collection to exhibit at Contemporary Sculpture Fulmer, part of the William Benington Gallery.  The outdoor space seemed a perfect location for them.

So, it was a last-minute organisation and consequently there was only a seven and a half tonne wagon available to hire. A few hours later we got an email from Saatchi online to say that The Keyhole Man had sold but the client needed it immediately for an event so it would have to be ready for Tuesday. At the same time as sorting out vans and drivers for sculpture delivery. We were printing off the paperwork for transport and  organising a crate to be made. Things always seem to happen last-minute and all at once!

On Sunday morning the alarm went off at 4am and the sculptor got up to go to the studio and with his two side kicks and the rather large truck travelled down to Buckinghamshire with sculptures loaded up.

backbiter in the woodsbb outdoor

This pieces looks even better outdoors with the reflections of the branches bouncing of the almost spider-like sprawl of Back biter.

Meanwhile, I was still in bed but unable to get back to sleep and for some reason my eldest unusually knocked on the door at 7.30am.  During the week I am the first to rise at around 6.30 but 7.30 felt far too early after not quite enough sleep. However, we all had to go out for the youngest football match. So I felt that I dragged myself out of bed.

Saturday had been a super glorious day with full sun and blue skies so it was a stark contrast to be stood in the rain and cold wind watching the football. We headed home for baths and snacks and an early lunch and I had to get on with painting the cupboard housing the attic ladder. Our attic conversion is almost complete but there is still much to be done in the remainder of the house. The good thing about having spare wood and tools lying around the house is that the boys busily got on with making a trident and Warwick castle inspired swords, not without bickering which seems to have become a new stage. The tiredness of the Saturday sun making us all a little weary.

For the sculptor in the van in the south, it was another hot and sweaty day and doing ‘a there and back trip in a day’ with a capped limit of 60 mph meant he didn’t return until 9pm. He was still adamant he would get up for a morning appointment for our business and then crate up the ‘red man’. Needs must. Somehow he did manage to get himself up and out. Perhaps, the southern sun had given him an extra dose of energy.  All worth it for how stunning these look in the grounds though.

And so ‘ Back biter’, ‘Widow’ and ‘Mademoiselle’ are now all in a new home for the next few months, great to see them outside in all their glory. Masterful pieces of hand carved sculpture.

A busy day for us all and how that has a ripple effect on the week, more so with the fact that the house is still upside down.

 

tiptoe outdoors

‘Tiptoe’, looking like a Dr Seuss creature exploring in the woods.

talking ou amm

mam outside

‘Mademoiselle’ strutting her stuff in between the trees

2 shendi outdoor

Shendi sculptures are ‘essentialism’

Making, Old Masters

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

Colour, Connections, Public Art

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