Shendi sculptures are ‘essentialism’

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.

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Getting back into a routine and flow

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

 

Sky, Earth, Water

I have caught some beautiful days this summer. Wandering. Walking. Captivated by the clouds and flowers this year. Always looking up for some loftier inspiration. I dart around like the swallows in my pursuit for easier homemaking, exercise, minimising and reducing waste, writing and looking after our business and the boys. Reminded recently about the need to be grateful for the place where we are at, both  mentally and physically. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Sometimes grounding ourself in the importance of seeing something through, brings us back to earth.

Sky Earth Water (2016)

Heads together

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‘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.”

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Sketch by Sam Shendi
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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

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.

Dedication


In memory of those who risk their lives for others.

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‘Lifeboat’ 2016

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Dedicated to those real unsung heroes, men and woman who step out into the unknown to save another soul.lifeboat-2

No one can say with certainty what will happen to us in our life.

A Thousand clichés

Everyday is a gift

Live your life to the full

Live until you die

Don’t take life for granted

Be courageous to live:

honestly,

passionately

positively

Constantly improving

Being a child of the 80’s I remember the theme tune to a programme called Record breakers, ” Dedication is what you need.” If you want to be the best… There are so many definitions to the meaning and I have put a link on the word which goes into that idea.

The sculptor made this piece thinking of those who chose to step out into the unknown or even the known and save others. He had an experience on a boat as a child but the memory of it was brought back, seeing images of the boats with refugees.

My husband is dedicated in his practice. He lives and breathes to create.

I love this image below, it’s so different from the images above and visually shows us how sometimes it is good to get a different perspective on things.

“Sometimes it’s hard to just keep going but dedication is moving forward without giving up no matter what.”

lifeboat-4

 

Starting the year with serenity

I always feel the December holidays are hibernation and a time for slowing down. I hit against it every year but this year was more resigning to it. However, 2017 has begun and already a week passed, time stops for no one.

It hasn’t been the best of starts to the year for one reason and another. Some trivial and some profound. Yet I am hopefully 2017 will be a good year.

Today the rain outside is relentless and as we drove to school this morning the eldest said it still felt dark. Here it is a gloomy dismal day and it though it doesn’t totally reflect my mood, there is a stillness needed.

So I post some stunning images in black and white, sombre and shadows and think about serenity.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

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‘Hammer head’ in progress at the studio (2016)

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Take Five, ‘artists who have lit up the genre’. How one got there.

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The gallery, The Civic, Mother and Child by Sam Shendi

It’s about 14 years since I met ‘the sculptor’ and although when I met him he wasn’t practising very much, he did an occasional clay sculpture but he was painting and drawing all the time, as that is what his space limited him to. Over the years as we increased our space his practice developed along with it. We had a fantastic attic flat for a year where lots of clay maquettes were made. When we bought our first house they survived the move and were all sat on a folding dining room table until one night we heard a crash and the table had collapsed along with probably 50 or so clay sculptures.

Just after I had our first child I was sat in the living room and the midwife came to visit,  3 clay heads lined up on the floor and she pointed to them and said that will have to stop. I never really understood what she meant. I was in the fog of being a new mum. I hope she meant that we would have to stop putting them on the floor and that she didn’t mean to stop the practice.

We did stop putting them on the floor but the studio then was a tiny shed in our yard until about perhaps 4 years ago – I’ve lost count, when we finally got a studio space and this was pivotal in the development of his work.

In January I will have been online with this blog for 6 years and this is my 250th post. And in this time we have come so far. On Saturday in the weekend Yorkshire post, we were so excited to see this:

take-5
Saturday 26th November, Yorkshire Post Magazine

 

To be listed alongside Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore is a dream come true. We are lucky in Yorkshire to have had these two greats among our history, heritage and it is quite almost unbelievable to be seeing ‘the sculptor’s’ name in a top 5 list with them. From my point of view, it is so deserving and so true.

It is great publicity for our other achievement, a solo show opening at The Civic in Barnsley. Yesterday my husband and the team at the gallery set up and it’s all ready for the private view on Friday evening and the show runs until January 28th 2017. The photos he took of the set up look stunning. The exhibition is entitled Mother and Child and it was interesting looking back and my first three blog entries all of mother and child pieces. Mother and Child is an endless subject and timeless. This exhibition at The Civic is very much about storytelling.

mother-and-child-collection

‘The colour blue is prevalent throughout the collection, and is used in a way that it respectfully represents the struggles which go with motherhood; the depression, the sleepless nights, the fear of losing the child, the back pain, the swollen feet, the pain of giving birth and going beyond one’s own comfort, the sacrifice.

It seems ironic that the journey we have taken in developing the sculptor’s success into the art world mirrors my own journey as a mother. When I look at these pieces they are monuments of the last 10 years of motherhood for me. But they are everyone. They will touch and impact on anyone who sees them. They are a reminder of the truth, motherhood is one of the greatest and unrecognised and often under appreciated roles on earth.

If you are in Yorkshire anytime from  3rd to January 28th I would recommend a visit to The Civic. Open Tuesday -Saturday, 10am- 5pm.

Body Language in its new home

body-lang-2-home

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It is quite wonderful to see a sculpture on a journey, from material to making, exhibition and then to rest with someone purchasing it for their new home. We don’t often get to see where a piece will end up and the surroundings it is finally situated in. So it is a rare treat to see this piece in situ.

We don’t often know where we will end up, where we are going or what is to come. We can spend time and energy thinking and worrying about that and I have done my fair share of that. However, I’m putting into practise the mindfulness of being in the moment, the here and now. Actually this focus takes away any future thought. I become more aware of how cold my fingers are as I type and how the rhythmic dancing of the tapping on the keys warms them up a little. Sitting in the shop with my blanket wrapped around me to stay as warm as I can, I look out on to the wet drizzle and white sky. I feel as a family the need for hibernation. The boys are tired, not great fans of the outdoors in this wintry, with their Egyptian blood running through their veins. The sculptor is exhausted from non stop working. I like this time of year for slowing down, reflection and introspection, I like to think for more reading and writing yet I am feeling slow to respond to that inclination. It will come. It is what it is. Nothing happens ahead of its time.