Liverpool Plinth Winner 2019

Awards, Colour, Connections, Exhibitions, History, Public Art
Split Decision outside the church

Today is summer solstice, the longest day of the year which gives me extra time to get this written. Well, obviously not really but I am trying to use the daylight and sunshine to my advantage.

Another year which is speeding by with its struggles but also with success. This time last week ‘Split Decision’ was unveiled as the winner of the Liverpool Plinth competition, positioned on a plinth outside the Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. The sculptor entered three pieces into the competition made possible by Dot-art and Liverpool BID company. It wasn’t a commission. This piece was made 2 years ago and fortuitously hadn’t been exhibited anywhere before. We assumed he hadn’t won the competition or even been shortlisted because, back in May we still hadn’t heard anything . However, there had been a little delay in the announcement and so we were double thrilled to find out that he had won it. 

Last Friday, the rain just about held off and the sculptor enjoyed a fantastic day in Liverpool with important people and press. He kept phoning me with updates. I love the photo below where he is being interviewed and is beaming from ear to ear.

 

It feels a pinnacle of the journey so far, to be on a public plinth for a year, gaining publicity and exposure. It has been fascinating reading the initial public reaction, my first response was of anger at some of the comments but the sculptor is at a point in his career where he understands that art will provoke both positive and negative feedback, both are valid. The fact that it is creating conversation, for him, is the benefit and what he is looking for.

 

content of plaque on the wall below

I am so proud and can’t wait to take the boys to see it over the summer holidays. It felt very serendipitous to me that this first very public event was in Liverpool. My father was born there and as a family we have supported Liverpool’s football team for decades. There felt a strong link and connection.

So if you are in the north of England and passing by Liverpool, take a trip round the one way system that almost made my husband late for his own event!

The sculpture is facing out towards the famous water front. You can’t miss it.

Photos taken by Andy Garrett

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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!

 

2019 Active and ready.

Colour, Connections, Egyptian, Public Art, Uncategorized

picture for 2019

‘The Bow’ by Sam Shendi. Photo: WeWork Devonshire Square. ARTIQ.

2019 is here and rolling and goodness, who knew how important having a holiday is?! I knew I needed one, as it had been eighteen months since a week in Scotland, and four years since a trip like this. However, it’s only on returning that I relish how divine it is to feel more relaxed and patient and how more easily available I am to take a deep breath. I am still in some hazy reality of not being ground down by the everyday shenanigans. I really want to try to remain and contain this slow pace and mellow state of moving and being.

We are warming up slowly to being back in the cold and cooler climates of Cowling (small village in Yorkshire, where we live) after spending  a good two weeks in glorious sunshine and azure skies, although there was strong wind, this only assisted in our catamaran trip and land sailing activities. The other amazing thing was not thinking about what to cook and meal planning, I am still struggling with this. I ate too much delicious food including fresh fish caught by the boys.

We returned to Egypt, despite looking at other destinations. As the sculptor is Egyptian, we felt the boys needed to soak up some of the Egyptian sun and see the sculptor’s sisters. It was glorious to have the sculptor around for seventeen days without distractions of shop or studio. I think this is where a trip of this kind differs from a week in Scotland for us, as we have our own business we are still fitting kitchens  throughout the year so the phone is almost certain to still be ringing. December allows us to completely close the shop.

(If you don’t already follow me on Instagram- thesculptorswife and you can see highlights of our trip away; lots of sea and sun).

So we started 2019 relaxed and ready. Last year my new year’s resolution was to set an intention. For 2018 it was ‘purpose’ which really helped me focus, regular blog writing, getting the house organised a bit better and planning out time more efficiently. All still work in progress but it enabled me to set goals and achieve.

This year’s word is ‘Active’. When my youngest son refused to race in a cross-country event, I had to dig deep and discover why I was so cross about it. I was the one that needed to move more. So this year I am determined to get back my love for being active. Although that focus is primarily about exercise it also encompasses being active here on this blog. It is nine years in the blogging coincidentally, I started ‘The Sculptor’s wife’ after a trip to Egypt with the purpose of writing about my husband’s art work whilst have two small children at home and pre-school. How quickly things change, the boys are so much bigger now and since I first started writing we now have the studio and have produced large-scale pieces of work which have been shipped worldwide.

I am also intending to be active about self-care and Yoga with adriene and the ‘Dedicate’ 30 day yoga journey has been a great start. Highly recommend! This image of the ‘Bow’ (above), to me is a great symbol of a balasana (child’s pose).

‘Active’ also means for me that we are active or proactive about getting the sculptures in exhibitions which is an area we need to develop and ultimately for my husband to be a full-time artist. That is the next big dream. I am not sure how that can happen this year but I read that when manifesting an idea you have to believe it is already so. Hence the image above which is a sculpture on location which is always so satisfying to see. So here we go.

We start next week by having a piece at London Art Fair. More about that next week.

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

 

 

Began the summer with a battle, leaving it with love

Colour, Connections, Public Art

Six weeks at home, no holiday away and with the boys off school it has been an interesting challenge. The first week began with a sick bug that meant we started slow and weary but also with the surprise of my brother returning from Australia for three weeks. Well, it wasn’t a surprise for me. I had been keeping it a secret for almost six months from the boys, who were delighted to see their youthful Uncle for the first time in eighteen months. We celebrated his thirtieth and my youngest 8th birthday, had days in the park and the weather was good. Whilst these things were wonderful, the boys are I seemed in daily battles. When my brother came to leave it felt like a huge wrench and I think my tears at his departure were also at the remaining three weeks still left to entertain and occupy the boys which still seemed a huge amount of time.

the widow in dev square

‘The Widow’, Sam Shendi, Devonshire Square London

The sculptor meanwhile has been busy taking pieces to London for installation in Devonshire square which look fantastic. We are now starting to see photographs of them popping up on social media, finally out in the public realm where people can see them.

the bow in dev suqre

‘The Bow’, Sam Shendi, Devonshire square,London

woman in red hat in dev

The back of ‘The Woman in the Red Hat’ and the sculptor in conversation. Devonshire Square

Also in August a piece went to America which was fun and games with DHL, who failed to pick up and then it became a game of endless emails and organisation for it to finally be taken for air freight.  It still hasn’t arrived with the client as it has been stuck in customs. Fingers crossed, ‘The Branch’ will be at its new home soon.

the branch to USA

‘The Branch’, Sam Shendi

We had a visit from an Egyptian painter Nazir Tanbouli whose paintings are like  two dimensional stories and an attractive compliment to the sculptures of Shendi. I felt like I had two artist giants at the dinner table as I nervously prepared my roast lamb dinner. Conversation and discussions about the philosophy behind their work happened in a mix of English and Arabic. Tanbouli posed interesting questions to the boys about how it was having an artist for a father. I too, was put on the spot and fumbled for articulate answers as I juggled the vegetables and the gravy, the dis-advantage  of having the dining table in the kitchen. This is why I write I thought.

2 ARTISTS

Nazir Tanbouli & Sam Shendi in conversation at the studio. Summer 2018

Somehow we slipped into a better rhythm in the second half of the holidays and despite the weather being more temperamental our behaviours and emotions were more measured. I reflected that I envisaged some kind of ideal last holiday before secondary school for my eldest although I am not quite sure what that was. I aptly saw a quote from Anna Lewis, “I wanted you to have an amazing summer. I did because I was with you” which was a great reminder to me of my own intention to be more mindful about being present with the boys and that they won’t be this age again. It’s not always easy when it is every hour of the day for the whole of the holidays but I am grateful that as it ended I could see the positives and the privilege of being able to be at home with them  (ha!).

So now with three/four days back at school I am slowly recharging/recovering and preparing for next week when the sculptor is away for a week at Saatchi gallery with start art fair. This has preoccupied the sculptors mind this summer, preparing for it with work, words and worrying!

So we welcome September with the intention to get back to routine, writing and more blog posts and exciting developments to come.

A repost of an interview in South Africa. In conversation with….

Exhibitions, Galleries

It is a year since this exhibition in South Africa but I wanted to re-post this video to see again this huge collection down in the southern hemisphere. Some great, huge pieces and a collection which tells a story. Sculptural Story telling.

 

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

Sculptural sins of the soul with gossip girl and brutish back biter into mortal flesh.

collections, Philosophy, Soul searching

Back biter 2I’m going for a catchy title, I played around with it and I am not really sure it makes any sense. Anyway, if you’ve ever seen any of the Alien film series, especially the latest one you might think this has come out of it. It is defiantly ones of the most unusual pieces in my husband’s collection. Although it is meaty. The teeth here are so clear,  dominant and like the hostile life forms of  ‘Alien: Covenant’, back biting breeds.

Last week after out road trip we had our bi-annual trip to the Dentist. Our youngest asked the Dentist directly, why don’t we come more regularly. I am so grateful for out teeth and gum health but he may have slightly tempted fate as the Dentist told me that both boys will need braces once all their adult teeth have come through. There is something about the mouth that symbolises a vulnerability. “Teeth as a symbol might imply inner aspects of ourselves that we don’t recognize, possibly the ego is being provoked or challenged”(Dream Dictionary.org). But we do need to look closely at ourselves.

This sculpture is an abstraction, but the teeth are in this case biting itself. The idea that speaking about others behind their backs is as abhorrent as “eating the flesh of ones dead brother.” It may seem like a gruesome subject but it is one which is evidently breeding today.

Perhaps the three legs in this sculptural piece depict the three birds shot with a single arrow in the Chronicles of Lorraine. Godefroy de Bouillon , Duke of Lorraine besieged the city of Jerusalem by a shot of an arrow at the tower of David and three birds were pierced with the single arrow. This event became a prophecy of the royal dignity and the meaning was taken as ” Whoever back bites someone shoots a flaming arrow and wounds three people at once: himself, his listener and his adversary.” The back-biter corrupts the ears of the one listening to the gossip, the backbiter themselves become known for taking about others and the one whom they are speaking badly of. “Rather, he commits a triple murder, for we all have three lives: the life of the soul, which is the fruit of grace; the life of the body, which we hold in common with animals; and our social life, which depends upon our good name. Now, the backbiter attacks these three lives. He attacks the life of soul and body in himself and in his listener, and he attacks the social life of the person he backbites. Such are the evils that backbiting breeds.”

I think my husband made this with the idea and the visual images of how woman historically have been known to gossip. However, in today’s society I think men and woman do it just as much as each other. With social media and the volume of information we put out in cyber world about ourselves and our lives, we play into that field of talking about others and not directly to them. Thomas Aquinas classified it as a mortal sin. “The back-biter does the most harm to himself, for the stone he casts at another will almost always fall back upon his head”. (Artabanus, Apud Herod, Book 7). Back biting isn’t good for us or a healthy past-time.

There is still an elegance to this piece, literally as I write, has just been requested for a stunning outdoor setting (more to follow). Teeth look powerful and aggressive where as our tongue sensitive and we might think more sensual  but it is out tongues we need to be wary of. As with most of the sculptor’s work there is a meaning and a message to the work. “If you examine yourself well, you will never back-biter others.”
(Saint Bernard,e inter. Dom, Chapter 42)

Back Biter, Rudimentary Collection 2017.

 

Rudimentary, my dear…

collections, Old Masters, Philosophy

…Watson, is what I want to say everytime we mention the ‘Rudimentary collection’ but before I go into a break down of each piece. I thought I would post this video for you to get the artist’s insight into this collection. This collection is more abstract than other so it is interesting to hear the thought process behind the work.

Video Clip below:

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.

madame b2

‘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