How to know reality?

Colour, Connections, Relationships, Soul searching

To follow last weeks post about the sculpture ‘Mademoiselle‘ and my memory of Paris, I will keep with the Paris theme. This week’s sculpture is The Woman in the Red Hat.

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‘Woman in the Red Hat’, Sam Shendi 2017

 

Are Memories are identification? Our mind is made up of our thoughts and what we are thinking and believing.

When I was in Paris in February many years ago I was by myself. I wonder now if I had an image of Paris in the spring but it was really still winter and I didn’t have enough warm clothes with me. I rang my husband home in England who told me to go and purchase a jumper. I don’t know why that thought hadn’t occurred to me. Too often do I not realise that money is a tool to be used to our advantage. I am not sure I made a particularly good choice. Why didn’t I buy a lovely warm coat? Whatever money I had then or not doesn’t serve me now. So I came out of the shop with a rather thin pink hoodie and a brown skirt. I went into places to keep warm, museums, shops and boutiques. Bought some perfume and a pair of earrings. Took lots of photos and then decided to go to the hairdressers and dye my hair red. So with my splattering of French I communicated to the hairdresser who didn’t have much English that I wanted it short and red. I can visualise the small shop, myself sitting on the left hand side of the salon and there I spent a few warm hours and some more money. Back then I was young, had no responsibilities, no ties but I wasn’t as calm, content and settled as I am now.

Sometimes when we look at a snapshot in time we can project an idea, a thought, a reality that is or isn’t true. Today with all the social media tools and images people post we can start to easily believe that others have it easy, more care free, happier, better. Whatever. It can create jealousy, resentment, anger, mistrust.

It all begins with our own thinking. We make a moment, with what we think and feel at that point in time. Someone else’s photograph may capture smiles and sunshine but it doesn’t capture what that person is thinking and believing in that moment and it could be their version of hell.

Imagine a woman walking down the Champs Elysee in a red hat. Audrey Hepburn springs to mind. She walks confidently. Self assured. She knows what she wants and how to get it. Her mind is clear. She is free of all negative thoughts which could constrict her. She is free of worry or concern. Everything around her is there to serve her. She is happy and healthy. She wears her red hat unconcerned about what any one else thinks. She has black stilettos and a colourful dress which she choose that morning. She is going out for coffee and will probably have a croissant.  She is unconcerned about her appearance. She is happy with how she looks. She will sit at the cafe and read a while, watch the people walking past. She is happy to be alone. Alone with her thoughts. She questions constantly what she thinks and what she believes.

‘Departed’

Uncategorized

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I typed ‘Departed’ and just saw ‘dead’ written next to it. Very final. I had been thinking more along the lines of ’embarking on a journey’ or ‘leaving the station’ – that kind of departed. The film, ‘The Departed’ perhaps. The lamb I saw in the road today, very much alive and annoying the farmer had departed from the field. Hadn’t it? It wasn’t dead, anyway – not yet.

Last week I ‘departed’ facebook for a month. Now I am wondering whether to completely come off it or will I slip back into the addictive social scrolling. Perhaps my internet persona on facebook is dead? In a world where we increasingly spend more time in a virtual reality, what becomes real and not real, what is seen and unseen? I won’t know how many facebook hits I get on this post. Will that bother me? Does it make it less real that people could potentially be reading my little blog post. Does it even matter if anyone is reading it. Not really, I guess.

Departing social media really is a tenuous link to this piece and doesn’t do it justice. What matters in the end is the good we leave behind in the world after we have departed. And when we have departed, where are you going? So ponder these ideas whilst you look at the shape, the line, the curve, the balance, the colour and particularly the shadows. Abstraction can be based on reality, just broken down to the very minimal and it is up to the viewer to see beyond. To visualise the deeper meaning of what is in front of you and find the unseen.

Can ‘Candy’ and ‘Candid’ result in an awakening?

Colour, Philosophy, Public Art, Soul searching

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Collection of work at Newby Hall ready for installing

“The intelligent want self-control: children want candy” Rumi.

My husband took the work to Newby Hall ready for installation (Exhibition now open). A member of staff commented that the sculptures looked like sweets. They do look like candy canes. Lick-able, as though each colour would taste different. Eating sweets has been a bit of a topic of discussion recently with our boys having, had lots of parties and sweet handouts at school. So candy has been on my mind…but now it is time to start focusing on more aspirational things as we approach our month of retreat, guarding of our lower beings and those animal instincts!

pair of candy

‘Awaken’ and ‘Reaching’ outside the studio

My husband did an interview for Candid magazine once which brought the word ‘Candid’ into my vocabulary a bit more. It was a great discovery. I not only like the word which sounds like candy. I like the meaning. Truthful, straightforward; frank, because I think most of the time we skirt around honesty in preference for politeness.  We ‘English’ like politeness and whilst we value honesty I am not sure we can handle candid comments very well. We want things sugar-coated and sweet. Makes me think of the line “some people can’t handle the truth” which I don’t think many of us can. We don’t want that raw reality preferring the hazy safety of polite untruths and staying within our comfort ones. Rather than thinking of our own faults we like to judge others faults before seeing their virtues. It makes us feel better about ourselves but before we do that we need to call ourselves to account. The capacity for self blame is a heathy soul and it humbles us. The importance of scrutinising ourselves and being brutally honest can often lead to an awakening.

awaken

‘Awaken’ by Sam Shendi

Awakening of a realisation of our own actions, behaviours, habits. In a secular context self-awareness has now become mindfulness which although is good practice has no moral dimensions.  As Immanual Kant said: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.”   The moral dimension of self-awareness includes nobleness. In the battery farm of the modern capitalist system which aim is producing eggs regularly, getting along with the other chickens and then ultimately you die and get made into cat food. The process goes on and there is no higher aspiration.  So preoccupied with all the other chickens, even mindful chickens, we are left at the level of the zoological. Yet, we were made for something higher than the lower self ‘zoo’. Nobility is what happens when we leave behind the animal desires. The thing that makes us human and not animal. Our higher being, one of virtuosity is nobel.

If we awaken to reality in this world we need to consider what we do, what we have been doing.

Forget the sweets, be honest and look at the day that is to come and hope for an awakening.

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‘Awaken’ by Sam Shendi currently showing at Newby Hall, Ripon

(reference T.J Winters, Cambridge University)

‘Art Swap’

Colour, Connections, Relationships

Sat at our kitchen table an evening after he returned from London we were catching up and chatting, we spontaneously posted the idea ‘ART SWAP’ on the sculptor’s Facebook page. I wasn’t too sure if it should be ART SWOP – does it depend where you come from? Anyway, we made the suggestion that artists could offer a piece of their work in exchange for a piece of ‘The Keyhole Man’ collection.

Nibbling dried fruit and dark chocolate I suggested that it would be interesting how long the process would take. By Midnight, fuelled by the 85% cocoa consumption we were still receiving messages, seeing which design other artists were interested in was intriguing and by the following day all 11 little men had new homes. It was wonderful being flooded with choices of works to pick from. Excitingly we realised we will potentially have 11 new art works. We need to build that modern shendi house!

It seems like a novel idea, and its a great idea at that, f or so many reasons. However, it is not a completely unique idea artists in the past were always intermingling, interchanging ideas and works. Picasso and Braque worked together, Monet and Renoir, Pissarro and Degas set up their own exhibition, Jan Lievens shared a studio with Rembrandt, Ben Nicholson introduced Barbara Hepworth to artists in Paris such as Brancusi, Arp, Mondrian and Naum Gabo. Together they became involved in a new international crusade for abstract art. Artists have always worked together.

In today’s modern world twitter, Facebook, pinterest and all the other forms of social networking all influence a digital exchange of ideas and connection globally. But generally Artists aren’t as friendly as they used to be there is more competition and backbiting.

To swap the actual art work is a fabulous way of making the world a bit more physical and real and for artists to appreciate each others work, to be able to receive pieces within a means they can afford.

Hopefully ART SWAP makes the connection and relationship between artists better, less competitive and more about a shared sense of camaraderie.
Keyhole family

‘The Keyhole Men Collection’

Journeys

Making, Philosophy, Soul searching, Steel

…..And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Robert Frost poem ‘The road not taken’ has always been one of my favourites, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference could be an epithet of my husband’s and mine. It is starting to become clearer that the creative process is a journey. Not that we didn’t know that, but we are at point where we can reflect backwards and look forwards more. My husband’s work is truly evolving, progressing in a way which seems meant to be.

His work started in clay, because that was what we could afford and with space limitations, the scale we could manage. So his hands gave form to clay.

'image from one of my very first blog entries of the making process'

‘image from one of my very first blog entries of the making process’

clay work

‘Early Clay work’

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‘Mother & Child’, example of the focus on outline

He always talked to me about his attempts to produce an outline.  Distinctly remembering a co-student at university who was doing beautiful paintings but putting a black line around everything, when the tutor had commented that, that isn’t how we see things, the student replied back , it was how he saw things. Thus began my husband’s obsession with trying to create the black outline of a 3D object. Almost an annihilation of the body and form and a preoccupation of what makes it so. Theses paintings show the idea and the exploration of that a line gives.

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Mother and Child painting

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‘Black outline with colour’

My own personal spiritual journey mirrors that of the sculptural journey,  removing the focus on our body and form and seeking a deeper meaning and purpose to this life. So with the clay sculptures it was very much about the light and shadow and minimising the human form with curvature. With a little bit of expansion into wood, he developed a series of wooden forms with small figurines exploring the human condition but still looking at the idea of the outline that was being created. The more we strip away at our own personal desires and take away the superficial aims of money and materials, what are we here for?

‘Wood and figurine’

As a teenager my time working in a nursing home for the elderly gave me a stark reality that the time here is fleeting and that in old age we physically become a shadow of ourselves in youth. There must be a deeper meaning to it all. As we verge on the cusp of our spiritual retreat, precious days to focus on our hearts. Time to reassess, re-prioritize and recognize the most important things in our lives.  To understand what we are doing here. “Where, then, are you going?”

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‘at a crossroads’

With the meeting of a steel fabricator there was movement into a new medium, enabling the shape of the human figure to be minimised more. In almost a fusion of the clay work and the wooden work a new series was created. The light and shadow create the outline in much of this pyramidal and obelisk work.

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‘Steel minimisation of the human form’

The addition of colour became a uniting tool for the journey of sculptures and enabled another layer of meaning to be visual presented. Emotions and ideas, the sculptures now in a state of consciously making us ask questions.

family tree

‘Family Tree’

‘Souls’ became the laconic title of the next body of work but in this case the souls of sculptures compressed into the minimal form. If our human body is like the clay then the soul is a distinct other entity within the human framework and has three states of existence, base desire, that which our bodies need to survive, secondly the soul in a state of consciousness when we start questioning and discerning and a final stage  where one is at peace and rest. The purification and development from the first to the third is a life long pursuit. A wrestling between each stage, a honing and a shaping of our inner reality.

Evolution and maquette

‘Evolution’ maquette and final piece

Stripping the figure right down to its most minimalistic form resulted in the ‘Evolution’ both in the title of this piece and the progression into a new theme of work. In keeping with the philosophy of our bodies being merely a vessel for the energy that makes us. What are we without our bodies. Taking away the matter, the material and focusing on what gives us shape.

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‘Wedding Dress’ combination of minimal form and mannequin parts

The college effect of using steel and mannequin parts also another part of the journey that came about from the idea of mixing both realism and minimalism together. It can sometimes be a struggle, living in day-to-day reality whilst maintaining a connection with an unseen reality but the reward is endless.

‘The Smoker’ became a turning point for a new idea. Using car exhaust parts to form an idea, an outline.

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‘smoker’

In nature there is no outline, all that is created is seen by what appears in front or behind. What is the reality of what we are seeing? We only see an edge because of the layers of things. So the line of the house I see outside the window is only visible because of the clouds behind it. In these images of new work not yet finished (so a sneak preview) the beginning of a new stage in the development of the sculptural journey can be seen. A new material enabled an exploration of ideas, in full circle a return to the initial curvature and idea of line . It redefines or explores further the idea of the outline, taking it to the next level in abandoning the matter within completely and focusing purely on the edge.

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‘Sketch and parts’

'Sketch and line'

‘Sketch and Line’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reflects the spiritual journey of focusing on our true self, the ethereal essence within us which ultimately outlasts the earthen vessel carrying us throughout this realm of our existence and onto the next. It is certainly a way of seeing the world, both as a sculptor and following a spiritual path, a gift I am eternally grateful for. In a fitting completion to this entry yesterday the sculptor discovered a new dimension to this new work which symbolically connects the two, but I shall leave that to write about once the sculpture is complete and our spiritual retreat which we are about to embark on has ended.

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‘Body Movement’

‘Body Movement I’ outside casting a shadow

The Reality

Colour, Exhibitions, Mother and Child, Public Art, Relationships, Soul searching

In a world where we have ‘reality’ TV shows, cyber worlds in which we can make our lives appear very different to the day-to-day routines and constant ‘updates’ of people’s daily realities, I thought it appropriate to look at ‘what is real’.

It is a week ago since we were heading down on the train for the preview. I consciously decided to write ‘The review’ almost not as ‘The sculptor’s wife’ but as someone else who had, had the luxury of being able to glide around the exhibition unhindered by children in their ‘mad hour’. I wanted not to taint my husband’s proud moment with my reality.

The journey started with my husband’s realisation that he had left his jacket at home, the one he had dry cleaned and planned to wear – outfit all imagined of course. Not a good start. One stressed artist in a confined space with two excited boys. Anyway, the food and books  prepared kept them busy. I let it all wash over me and stayed calm. We got to the hotel, changed and met family to enjoy a meal at a Lebanese restaurant around the corner. The boys had gone into hyper mode. I think I became a bit dazed by the sudden thrust into central London life and I was unable to eat much of the yummy food on offer. The walk to the Royal British Sculpture Society offered a moment to savour the atmosphere but as we gathered outside and met with friends it dawned on me that the space inside may not handle all our contrasting energies. Inside, I managed a few snatched conversations and introductions with people I wanted to speak with but overly aware of my youngest hurtling around. As I reflect, I recall an almost cat and mouse game of chase around one of the exhibitions. No wonder someone came out making a comment about not wanting to meet the children inside at a restaurant.Whoops. Half prepared, I dug out folded pieces of paper and crayons I had brought with me with visions of calmly occupied children sketching. Mmm… perhaps if it had been 10.30 in the morning that would have worked. Whilst the speeches were underway the boys bounced off the steps outside, my sister anxiously wondering who was with them as we were tightly compact with no way of assuring their safety. However, they were with a friend and relatively content. My husband was whipped away to speak with a potential client and with my eldest becoming somewhat overwhelmed with tiredness and emotion I took us back to the hotel thankful that it was just around the corner.

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‘The Toy’ exhibiting in Embassy Tea Rooms ‘Passion for Freedom’

Alongside all this my husband also had to organise in the middle of the night the journey of ‘The Toy’ coming down to ‘Passion for Freedom’ which had to change their venue at the last-minute. This meant that the day after whilst he ran across London to meet with the van and deliver it. I took the boys to a museum round the corner with a phone that no longer had any battery. The reality of being out of mobile phone contact when needing to liaise meeting up made for good problem solving skills to come into play. In all, it was an exciting trip and the buzz of it was amazing but good to reflect a week on and put some perspective and ‘reality’ to it. Sometimes we so often see the duck gracefully swimming that we forget the ferocious paddling underneath.

This morning, my boys were playing an imaginary game and I suddenly tapped into their reality and seized the moment to connect their reality with mine. I wish I could do this more often. The three-headed monster (the light in their bedroom) who was a potential threat assisted me by becoming the reason to armour up into school uniform. Hats for helmets, space boots and then our rocket ship journey to school was a more peaceful one than previous mornings.

We chain ourselves to things that make us act, behave, see, respond in a certain way. Our possessions, the people around us are all given to test us for what is real. This piece below is the one ‘nestled in the fireplace’ in the exhibition. ‘Cruelty: This work confronts the parent/child relationship and questions our imposition of moral and social systems which conflict with our own inner truth.’

As with this life, it may seem like the reality but sometimes we need to stand back and look beyond the illusory pleasures of this temporary world and ask ourselves what is real?

'Cruelty'

‘Cruelty’

 

When dreams become reality, setting up the studio.

Colour, Making, Relationships

It has been a while since I have written, and not for want of writing. Daily life has been busy and other things have taken over my need for writing in the evenings. There could be a thousand words to write against these images but I think they speak for themselves and for now they tell the story of the progress over the last few weeks.

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‘Day 1’

building

‘Building workbench 2, all in a days work’

workbench

‘Taking shape’

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‘Painting’

studio progress

‘Last touches of paint’

reflection

‘Through the window’

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‘Reflection’

sculptures in studio

‘Sculptures ready’

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‘Desk in working order’

studio 1

‘Clean and tidy’

studio stage 1

‘Giving the sculptures their space’

stuido image sent

‘Wall of tools’

finish 1

‘How did Van Gough get in their?’

wall built

‘addition of an internal wall for spray room’

wall built side

‘Husband very proud of his handy work’

finish 2

‘Looking good’

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‘Photo shoot’

studio finish

‘Studio space ready’

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”
Marsha Norman