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

 

 

‘Big Questions’ for ‘I’ll Call you’. Art Swap featuring Sal Jones

Art Swap, Colour, Galleries, Relationships

For the first time in four years of blogging I have lost a post I started. Must mean I didn’t save it which is odd because it usually does it automatically, doesn’t it? But even if it doesn’t I can’t believe I closed it without a reminder for me to save it, or that I even forgot to click the save draft button. Must have been the pre-cursor to the way I felt last night and this morning, not good. So I have had time to write today  from my bedroom, feeling a little under the weather but happy that the sun is starting to shine and it is teasing us with spring. The view from my window a painting in itself. But I digress….

All of this has nothing to do with what I want to write about today which is our first successful art swap. We successfully exchanged ‘The Big Question’:

The big question

‘The Big Question’

with ‘I’ll Call you’ by artist Sal Jones .

So today I am going to write a little bit about her work. It is interesting to see the links and comparisons between painting and sculpture and of course the obvious differences.

I'll Call you by Sal Jones, Oil on canvas

I’ll Call you by Sal Jones, Oil on canvas

Sal Jones focuses on exploring colour and form expressively, aiming to engage the viewer with visually exciting work. Many of her paintings use bold and vibrant colours as my husband’s sculpture usually does. However, The Big Question, above is simple monochrome. I think you can tell when as artist is thinking about the way a viewer might interact with their finished work. It gives a more complete piece of work somehow.

The heightened use of colour adds emotional and expressive dynamic to the work. Many of her pieces have a vivacious quality to them. This one a little more muted, with moody blue tones adds to the story and the suggestion of a dark tunnel ahead.  For me having had a little experience in painting I love the gestural brush marks and the layers of colours. I also am fascinated by the way the suggestive marks give rise to the folds and forms of the fabric. So the light and dark make this piece.

Here is the painting hanging in our hallway, like it was painted to be there. The first things I see when I come out of my room.

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‘I’ll Call you’ by Sal Jones

As the figure is walking away you can almost put yourself in the painting. “By taking an isolated image out of context and using the dialogue as the images title – I’m hoping to create a friction or ambiguity in the reading of the image interpreted in different ways by different viewers depending on their personality and viewpoints and what they bring to their understanding of the subject”. I really appreciate this factor.

Interpretation is everything and an important part of my husband’s work too. Much of Sal Jones’ work features portraits which although I like and she describes more as ‘character studies’, in our small terrace house I don’t think hanging the face of someone would really work. Where as this piece has an abstraction to it because the figure can be anyone, I also like that it is a full figure as many of my husband’s pieces are the female form so there is lovely link there.

Indeed, both the sculpture and the painting tell a story. Like a pictorial book we are invited to create our own words for the images we see. Jones herself states that she is “interested in capturing moments of expression that portray the human psyche, of blurring the boundary between fact and fiction; also in the relationship between the title and image.” Titles are everything, as I said in my last entry about my husband’s laconic titles very different from some of the long-winded titles of many modern minimalist pieces. Sal Jones’ titles are the stories themselves, inspirational points for an aspiring writer.

So we are privileged to have a unique and precious painting on our landing and if you want to see her work you can do from next week at Espacio Gallery . Click the link to another blog entry about the gallery, as my husband has also exhibited there.

Sal Jones exhibits in:

Y Not?
31 March – 5 April 2015
Private View: Thursday 2 April 6-9pm
An exhibition in aid of International Women’s Day.

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

Mother and Child, Old Masters, Public Art
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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’

Selected

Exhibitions, Galleries
'Sperm'

‘Sperm’

We have had a flurry of ‘You have been selected’. All the pieces got selected for the Bradford Open (28 September – 19 January ) Yipee! The mad dash panic last week was worth it. My husband came in the other night and said, ‘How far away is Wales’? I’ve just applied for something there. Let’s have a look I said. WELLS not WALES (roll of the eyes yet again) in October, like we need anything else to do.  A ‘soul’ piece got selected for the Wells Open. Followed by an email asking if we were interested in a solo exhibition next year in the North West. Also, selected to be an associate member of The Royal British Sculpture Society, so can now put ARBS after his name. So a pretty good week in terms of ‘selection’.

This piece above, simply titled ‘Sperm’ has been selected for the Bradford, Cartwright Hall. I think how ‘Selected’ links with this piece is pretty obvious, well, it puts a smile on your face, right? Enough said!