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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Heads together

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.

Lost words

 

Last week I got back into my writing and wrote a long post, ‘Less is more’, saved it to come back to in an attempt to re read and edit what I am writing and be a little more conscientious. I occasionally do this (not that often) and the saving system works fine. However, this time it has cleverly morphed the post I wrote the last week with one I had not ‘published’ yet written 6 months ago that was quietly sitting in the ‘draft’ file. I am not even sure how this has happened but the bulk of what I have written is lost into a virtual ether that I feel my brain can’t get back.

I sit here feeling frustrated about all the quotes I had sourced and the links to other things, it had the making of being a really good entry, I was sure. Lost. Made me think about something my husband had put up on one of his social media a few weeks ago. Ironically, someone commented that they wondered what Mrs Shendi thought. I was puzzled as to what they meant. Why were they interested in my opinion about what my husband does with his work?

I know the sculptor can grab a bit of clay at anytime and sculpt it into a head, so easily that it makes you think anyone can do it. With words, perhaps it should be as easy, to re-write something that has already been written. Will it be better rewriting it? At this moment it feels irretrievable, gone. Evaporated. Do writers create as easily as sculptors or is moulding words into a coherent piece of writing a different process?

The mindful meditation that I have been trying to work on this year reassures me that yes everything happens for a reason. There is a purpose as to why that piece of writing is not to be ‘published’. As I quietly, calmly sit here with the ‘serenity’ I am pursuing, a little cartoon image of me stopping like a 2-year-old and having a tantrum, going bright red with anger and frustration pops up in my mind’s eye. But it’s just not me. The only thing that seems to anger me at the moment is my boys not listening to me, and I am working on that because I think we all have selective hearing once in a while, especially when we are asked to do something menial like pick up a sock! So to take heed of my husband’s lesson. I can do it again.

clay-head-3“Since the time of the University until now, I have created so many portraits. Yet I always break them after I finish and recycle the clay. The same piece of clay that I used in this portrait has been recycled since 2008. I think I have made about 8 different portraits and somehow I stop and then the only thing I want to do is break it, instead of casting it. It feels as though if I were to cast it and have it around me in the studio, it would be as though everything I made afterwards would look like it. These days I could stay 2 years without creating one portrait. I just get a feeling that my hands need to create a portrait. The more I let my hands decide to create the sculpture, the quicker and the easier it comes. The point is, I was never frightened to break it after the hard work because I always say to myself I can do it again.”clay-head-1

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

black-and-white-photo-exhibi
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.

Pace and the art of being in the moment

I wasn’t so surprised to see it’s been 24 days since I last posted a blog. Time feels it is running faster and faster. My sister-in-law once told me “life is like a room, in one door, out the other.” The days at the moment seem to pass with increasing speed.

The speed at which something happens.s I seem to fail miserably at keeping up with any one challenge I am pleased that this blog is ticking a long. So I must keep it up. Along with all the other challenges I set myself.

The sculptor works daily and many of his Facebook comments remark about his process, his relentlessness, his speed and if or not he ever rests. I think he has a keen awareness that the physicality of his work may be that one day he will not be as able to work with the same energy.

Making 4
‘Defeated’ in progress

Working on the Mother and Child collection in the studio

making 3 making 2 making 1

When I think about why I haven’t been writing, it’s because I have been reading and walking. All of which require a certain pace and both I do far to fast. On a family Sunday walk this weekend my husband told me slow down. I didn’t need to be walking so fast. I skim read because I want to get to the end of the story. I am highly aware at the moment that I am  rushing the children constantly with barking orders.

The mindful art of being in the moment is also the ability to slow down, to be present truly and focus on what you are doing in that moment.

On the other hand, my writing project has halted at the first hurdle of editing and ordering chapters. I dart around from one project to the other not yet finding a steady pace to it all. Despite the sculptor’s speed and seemingly unrelenting pace, he always has the ability to be in the moment. I think this is what gives him the ability to harness the imagination an creativity into the creation. I have just finished reading (too quickly) one of the most beautiful reads. A book which made me realise I need to slow down the moments, really understand what my, earlier in the year, daily yoga challenge was teaching about taking in a deep breath and changing pace.

Practice and the art of freeing ourselves from possessions

sculpture 9

Many people I spoke to in March had a miserable month. With the change of the clocks, lighter evenings and daffodils and lambs appearing perhaps April will bring a solution, a peace and a resolve. Listening to the radio the other day, the broadcaster said she had observed as she got older she was acutely more aware of the seasonal change. Perhaps there is truth in that, as we grow older we become more in-tune with natures cycles and the awareness that everything perishes and then there is life. I can’t fully remember what and why I was telling the boys the other day, that sometimes we have tests or difficulties and then we meet people who are having greater tests and we are reminded and humbled into realising our own blessings.

I feel that too at the moment. I feel March was a testing month. I am constantly being reminded that I need to develop greater patience and calm. I think part of my personal turbulence has been to do with sorting out boxes from the attic in an attempt to de-clutter and make more space. It is a strange process and looking back at letters in boxes from as far back as 1986 re-lives a little of your own personal history and also reading others stories from past. I have come to realise with my husband’s wisdom; that the past is the past and no need to be relived. Inspired by an American guy who has just totally reduced his possessions to 111 that he is carrying on his back. I am determined to reduce the amount of ‘just stuff’ I have. Although, I am still unsure how to get rid of much of my memorabilia. How much do our possessions take over us?

sculpture 5 sculpture 6 sculpture 8

 

 

 

 

 

I usually only post images of finished works, yet sometimes I think it is good to see the process. This also is such a different technique but shows the skill of my husband’s hands. When I first saw this piece I said, it reminds me of William Tell. Who is William Tell, my husband asked. I couldn’t remember just the story of the boy with the apples on his head. So I did a little research. He was the archer and the boy his son. He was asked to bow down to the leader of the area and he refused. So he was asked to shoot one of his arrows through an apple positioned on top of his son’s head. He successfully shot the apple. The leader noticing a second arrow asked what it was for. Tell, said if he had missed and killed his son the second arrow was for the leader. The swiss fable became a story of liberty and freedom.

Sculpture 3As I try to free myself from my attachment to letters and souvenirs, I wonder how much possessions actually weighs us down, literally and metaphorically, some how. In general as  a society we seem to attach more sentimentality to our things now more than some people do to other people.

My husband generally purchases more than I do but he never gets attached to it. Even his work. This masterful sculpture looks like it should be cast in bronze or marble. He started talking about colouring it in ways that match his current work. For example, the entire piece gloss black with just the top of the apple in red, or different coloured sections on the head…..

However, these images are not only the process but now the memory. The piece no longer exists. ‘How could you do that,?’ I asked my husband, as he showed me images of the head looking like a claw had swiped through it. ‘It only took me a couple of hours to make, it’s a practice. Not something to remain’. He is also a bit wary of making realistic portraits. It looks like days, months of work but it isn’t for my husband. He is fast and precise. Making something ‘real’ looking isn’t what his current practise is about. This was just to keep his hands in clay, just a process. Practising.

Sculpture 4

Barnsley and Dash

Today the sculptor has gone for a little look at Barnsley Civic. So, I am ‘dog’ watching and ‘shop’ sitting – I say that with hesitancy as I am still catching up with the idea of both these endeavours. Slightly more confident in dealing with customers wanting a kitchen than the puppy training at present. For the first five minutes, I thought it was going to my usual madness, as he started chewing the pee-pad and gnawing on the boxes and the postman opened the door and he almost escaped. But a bit of a tug-of war with his rope toy calmed him down and he’s been sleeping since and I have been reading and writing making me feel more adept at business and dog owner responsibilities. I am just on alert that if the door opens he doesn’t dash out. Hence his name.

I read today that they have selected the four artists for the Hepworth prize. I feel slightly disgruntled that my husband is not one of them but bearing in mind this is not like the Turner prize, as they like to point out, you can be over 50 and indeed two of the nominees are in their 70’s. There is hope for the future yet and perhaps by 2018 (my husband will still be in his 40’s) we will have ticked a few more boxes for whatever it is they are looking for. Although, the other two are much younger, it’s an interesting range of ages not so sure about the art work ‘sculpture’ definitely has some interesting definitions these days.

Lots of new work is being created in the studio and a large body of work coming together under the theme ‘Blues in Motherhood’. Glossy pictures not yet ready of this one, so here is a sneak preview of the largest piece so far in this collection standing at 280cm high. The title of the piece appropriate as a few things recently I have been unsure as to whether to announce or not. Will write more on this piece when the photos are ready.

Annunciation
A quick peek of ‘Annunciation,2016’ in the studio

This trip to Barnsley may even be one of those things that helps along the path to recognition in the art world. For some people Barnsley might not be an art capital but the space seems pretty impressive and it is right in the middle of the sculpture triangle; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Hepworth Wakefield and Henry Moore Institute, so hopefully it is a good start. The aim is that we may have a solo exhibition of Mother and Child sculptures by the end of the year.

For the first time I am unsure what to title my ‘post.’ I often finish writing and it becomes clear but ‘Barnsley and Dash’ is all I could come with and reminds me of  Dandelion and Burdock, state flower for Barnsley, apparently.

A description about how the ‘calligraphy collection’ came about

 

The start of this concept began whilst drawing figurative sketches, practising with paper and pencil. Looking at the sketches there was a realisation that the outline can be the sculpture its self rather than the volume within. Knowing that an outline does not naturally exist and we only see things because of what is behind it, therefore the idea of this collection is to create a non-existing outline with an existing form. Like some painters started to use a black outline round their realistic paintings. Like if you imagine the painting without the content and only the black outline.
Focusing on the outline  stainless steel pipes were manipulated to keep form and create abstraction.  They looks like words. Born and raised in Egypt, when my husband sees them he can see the Arabic words. With a small manipulation to the outline actually the piece casts a shadow of obvious words recognised by the eye. Looking at the work through a camera’s eye, shows  that the shadow and reflection of the sculptures itself writes Arabic words but still the form is, as a sculpture.

Perhaps, the viewer will only see abstract shapes but this collection is the outline of classical forms. This displays the journey and connection between classical sculpture and abstraction. It is all one form it just depends on how the artist presents it. It is a natural progression from formal sculpture to simplification.

So through the process and progress a combination of sculptural form and language appears. The addition of the colour and the shadows, which cast on the walls and on the floors, still influences the concept.

From simply a visual connection to the mysterious words hidden within. Endless ideas can come out of this theme.
So the words can describe form and still maintain human form. Colour in all the themes describe emotion, movement, and experience and is a description of the motivation behind the piece.

Sculptures in the Calligraphy collection

calligraphy 5
The Portrait
calligrapgy 7
‘Madame Butterfly’
calligraphy 15
Mother and child
caigraphy 11
Body Language
Calligraphy 1
Signature
calligrapgy 14
‘Memories’

calligrapgy 3 calligrapgy 6 calligraphy 10 calligraphy 12
calligraphy 16
calligraphy 17

 

What is in a name, Shendi?

 

isolated
‘Isolated’

Names and meanings. We name our art pieces with laconic titles. Brief, direct and to the point. I sometimes have an input in the naming of works but it often becomes a joke. Like, who thought of the name of our kitchen business ‘Arabesque’, I am pretty sure it was me. (In fact I think I have written that somewhere before). It was probably a whole elongated conversation but who actually thought of it gets a little lost. The same has since happened with art works, it becomes a discussion to get to the final single or double word for the most apt title, who names it in the end we don’t really know!

Naming of art work in the art world has become a whole subject in itself in recent years with works having extended titles giving chapter and verse about a piece.”Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate, a Second Before Waking Up” by (Salvador) Dali is rather a long conflated one. Painter Debra Ramsey says: “I am now more aware, in our fast paced world, it’s safe to assume that the viewer expects at least some information right up front.. the title can lead the viewer into something, and can be used to broaden the “readership” of the work.”

'Cruelty'
‘Cruelty’

However, I think we’ve gone with the opposite idea. There is so much information today that the short succinct title makes the viewer able to consider it whilst focusing on the work itself. Letting the work speak for itself. On the other hand though when you hear my husband speak about his work or read about it, it does open up so much more and a deeper level of thinking about the subject. So I do see why more information about an art piece can sometimes be helpful.

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‘Arion’

So to the name, ‘Shendi’. When my brother was still at school he somehow took the name ‘Shendi’ on and would always call my husband by it, “Now then Shendi” and some how coined it as his own nickname. There is something about it that could almost be a first name, like Jackson or Connor has become. So Friends have indeed started to call him, simply, Shendi.

However, Shendi  (Arabic: شندي) is a place, a town in northern Sudan, situated on the east bank of the Nile River 150 km northeast of Khartoum. Additionally, another town named Shendi in Ethiopia. So the fact that it is the name of a place also gives it a bit of weight. One day perhaps we may venture there. But whether our surname should actually be spelt ‘Shendi’ when we pronounce it sometimes more like’ Shindy’ could be a question. Although, when I say that out loud now I think it is more ‘Shen’ than ‘Shin’. Somehow Shendi looks better when you see the letters and the fact that Shindy means a noisy disturbance or lively party totally puts me off.

I decided to change my name only once the boys had been born and we were travelling. I had to change my passport anyway and it made sense and a lot easier to all be the same family name. Now, for school I have found this easier to be Mrs Shendi, but a lot of documentation is still in my maiden name which caused me great difficulty when I recently had to upgrade my phone. The whole female name change issue when getting married is an interesting one as in Egypt and many other middle eastern countries, a woman doesn’t change her name. I did consider this when getting married but because this tradition doesn’t apply here I would be Mrs ‘enter maiden name’ which would be the same as my mother and I thought that was really confusing.  I think it is interesting that the fact that woman in the middle east don’t take a man’s name when they marry, isn’t often known. Perhaps we should have more of a ‘Madame’ and ‘Mademoiselle’ system to specify age rather than marriage? I could happily have Mme and be ‘ME SHENDI’.

I jest and digress but  found this lovely appropriate quote, “Everyone you meet has a part to play in your story. And while some may take a chapter, others a paragraph, and most will be no more than scribbled notes in the margins, someday, you’ll meet someone who will become so integral to your life, you’ll put their name in the title.” –Beau Taplin.

This sums it up rather nicely for me, for who knows maybe one day ‘Shendi’ will be ranked along with Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet. We know them after all by their surnames not their first names. Even well-known artists today tend to be thought of  in Surnames, Hockney, Gormley, Hirst? Maybe, or less so? Another topic of discussion.

Anyway, I could quite easily imagine people asking have you have seen a ‘Shendi’? and they wouldn’t be meaning a lively party. So there’s no argument in the naming of my title or I guess the sculptor’s. Shendi will do nicely.

'The Bow'
‘The Bow’