The Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti

collections, Egyptian

Way back in December my husband said he was closing shop, closing studio for a few weeks. Time Off. Haha who was anyone kidding, the following day he was at the studio creating a new collection. This new collection is steeped in history, a concept, a story.

If you cast your imagination back, back to the time of ancient Egyptians. “The King’s Favourite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose” flourished in 1350 BC. Thutmose is thought to have been the official court sculptor of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten towards the end of his reign.

Nefertti

The bust of Nefertiti sculpted by Thutmose

The sculptor of the royal house was commissioned to make works of decoration and public art including the well-known Nefertiti Bust (above)

However, the story goes that in the secret spaces of his own studio the sculptor set to work on his own private collection. Looking at the Queen everyday working on the portrait the sculptor fell in love with his muse. So inspired he started working prolifically on full figures presenting her in shapes never seen before, inspired by the beauty of the young queen he explored his own style.

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Sam Shendi in the Studio

Or perhaps the Queen and her sculptor were in love and she commissioned him in secret to work on something that freed him from the constraints of the public design. She wanted him to dedicate his practise to her.

sanding Nefertiti 2

Sanding

Either way, these sculptures were hidden away in his studio and had no opportunity to be unveiled. To be revealed would make his love known or be too much evidence of love forbidden.

RESIN nEFERTITI

Next layer

They remained unearthed in the studio like beings from another world. Beautiful creations dancing in the shadows.

The possibilities of this story, the discovery of several works in the remains of the sculptor’s studio and suggestions that it was the sculptor alone and not an apprentice that worked on those of Nefertiti suggests some sort of secret.

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Working on the Nefertiti collection in the studio

This story inspires the new collection.

Studio all Nefertti

Studio full of the forbidden sculptures of Nefertiti

Each piece would be positioned on an individual plinth and in two parallel rows of four. These stunning black and white photos below showcase the form, line and perfect finish of these works. Every time my husband finished new work, I think it is the best. Next week I will show you the finished full colour collection.

shadow 2 Nefertiti

Head Shot. Black and White photos of sculptures

shadow Nefertiti

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How to understand the mind of a sculptor

collections, Colour, Making

Mademoiselle 1

How do you see this sculpture? What do you see?

An abstract form? An insect, some kind of creature? An Alien? A landscape? Or something from your own imagination?

Whatever you see, you see something, you think about something, you remember something?

Frank Stella famously quoted that, “Sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood some where”. This quote I think could sum up my husband’s work. They are like three dimensional canvases. This piece particularly feels that way.

The other evening at the kitchen table, we had finished our supper and were chatting over a hot cup of tea. The last few days had been hot but the cool evening breeze had lowered and the hot tea felt magic.

It’s those little moments, subtle but memorable. When I asked my husband about this piece and he spoke and I wished I had recorded it.

For him, he has the idea, a shape, a concept in his mind. It is completely carved from every angle. He turns it around in his minds eye. Once complete he sets to work. The form then inspires the colour and like a painted canvas he then wraps it around the sculpture like gift wrapping a present , tight to the edges of the shape.

“Mademoiselle” 2017. Rudimentary Collection. Sam Shendi

This piece is a female form, a young woman experimenting with different hues, finding her true colours. She struts her stuff, thin not yet shaped by life or motherhood. It reminds me of A few days I spent in Paris in my early twenties by myself with my camera, taking back and white photos, not really appreciating the time, the freedom and the vitality I had.

For most of us our minds work in thoughts, ideas, imagination, maybe each one of us thinks different. Perhaps we all are the same. But to go that next step and create something not seen before is unique. That’s why (following on from my last post about SATS and Education) what we learn in school or the test scores don’t relate to our true potential.

Artists don’t need to create a realistic version of something these days. We have cameras and videos for record. To create something inspiring, memorable, colourful yet captures movement, form, beauty is the skill of a true sculptor.

Blossoming from a road trip

Colour, Connections, Making
blossomed 3

‘Blossomed’. 2017. Sam Shendi. Rudimentary Collection

So I missed my newly regular Friday posting last week due to being away on a road trip with the boys. The three of us ventured all the way down to the south coast, taking in Oxford and catching up with old friends, the Roald Dahl museum, the stormy sea, staying with a relative, Stonehenge and Warwick Castle.

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The sun definitely came out for what felt like the first time (and only time this holiday!) on our day at Stonehenge which our eldest relished as he listened to his audio guide for information intently. Like ancient sculptures they stood majestically in open fields reaching up to something beyond and yet rooting down into the earth. I felt my boy blossomed in his eagerness to learn and absorb the history.
This piece, ‘Blossomed’ is also reaching up to something beyond, looking like it has been inspired by UFO’s or that which is extra-terrestrial. But, imagine the process of turning clay into a figure and the stages you would capture in-between the initial lump of clay and the anatomical figure. This is the rudimentary stage. Here below you could see the curve of the back to the right with stomach in red, arms stretched out with clasping cup like hands and legs morphed into pincer like structures .
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A road trip feels like a rudimentary holiday. It is a basic sort of holiday. The positives about going on a road trip is that you see new things, learn and discover not just about the places you visit but about yourself. I really don’t like getting lost! On our first day I was totally reliant on my phone to get us to my friend’s  house in Oxford, usually I just plug-in an address and it tells me where to go. Well, when you are in a new place without a map and for some unknown reason the phone is no longer speaking to you, it gets tricky! Patience gets thin. So on day two I ditched the phone and went old school, purchased an overpriced road map and navigated my way to the Roald Dahl Museum and then everywhere else for the next 4 days. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways after all. Whilst I think I slightly regressed in my behaviour the boys excelled in meeting new people, spending time with an elderly relative and her dog and taking in all that was new. It was great to see them blossoming. I only see that now in hindsight obviously. Slightly sleep deprived and relentless driving with boys bickering in the back with each other was my filter at the time. However, I have returned with a renewed energy of sorts. Starting to return to a regular pattern of sleep and healthy food but a change is definitely as good as a rest!

Whilst we were away the sculptor painted the boys’ room and the living room. So we came back to an upside down house and we got straight into painting, in the attic, recently plastered and all set to become a new space. I am managing the feelings of overwhelm by focusing on the end goal and the fact that this had been on the wish list for a few years. Positive thinking and affirmations and being more structured with my daily planning have definitely helped this all take shape.

Blossomed 2
The shape of this sculpture from this angle (above) looks like a bud, a seed or a pod growing out of something moving and changing and then below the angle shows it blossoming into something reaching and grasping in all directions for every opportunity. Just like the boys, little seedlings growing and changing daily. Blossoming.

(I wish the weather would!)

Blossomed 1

A journey from creation to situation

collections, Making, Public Art
Hammer Head

Hammer Head. Only Human Collection. Sam Shendi 2017

On Saturday in the early hours of the morning, the sculptor set off to take a number of sculptures down to St.Botolph’s building in Aldgate, London. It’s a long journey there and back in one day and it takes it out of him each time. The sculptures will be  on display for 6 months and dominating the reception area of this modern building.

Some people use only their heads to plough on through, working hard, determined to make a difference. They use their heads for work. It’s quite appropriate then that this sits inside the reception for a Law firm.

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preparing the hammer head

It is easy to forget once they are inside an industrial building that these sculptures are all hand carved by my husband, it’s so ‘perfect’ looking, with today’s modern industry where things are moulded and formed by machines. My husband’s  philosophy is that art should be beautiful, he has such skill with his hands and traditional sculpture methods which makes me believe he is one of the classic sculptors in our time and we are working to get him known for that. Behind each piece is a philosophy, a story.

The sculptures themsleves go on such a journey from creation, being in the studio, photo shoots and they look different being placed in the ‘outside world’ rather than being in the studio. These have had such a fantastic response on social media which affirms how these works should be out in the public arena wherever possible.

We are all on that journey. From the start, to where we will end up and how we will tunnel our way along. Laid back with no ambition? Meandering along life’s twists turns? Or like a hammer in a relentless and repetitive rhythm to achieve the end result. It is a journey in the making from creation to situation.

To go and view these pieces you can get in touch with info@ARTful.org.uk.

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

 

Tonight is the night

Exhibitions, Galleries

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 :

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Creative Education

Colour, Connections, Public Art, Relationships
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

Connections, Relationships, Soul searching
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

collections, Colour, Conceptual, Connections, Making

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.