How to read art: Understanding Sculpture Shakespeare, & Shendi.

Colour, Conceptual, Connections, Philosophy
section of the branch

Side view of ‘The Branch’ by Sam Shendi

Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? …people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”
— Pablo Picasso

One perspective of 'The Bow'

The Bow, Sam Shendi

Sometimes we try too hard to understand what art is and what the artist is trying to say. Any art form be it; music, singing, poetry, writing, painting, drawing and sculpture, dance and even sport (if you see can go as far as to see that as an art form) is an expression from the artist. The creator. It’s their voice.

section of mermaid

How, as someone trying to appreciate another’s voice, do we try to understand what someone else is trying to say? Like with any conversation, it is best to let go of any judgements, any preconceived ideas or opposition. Easier said than done when in a discussion or a debate.  However, in the case of art. The art form isn’t directly speaking back to you in any kind of altercation, so the ability to let go should be easier.

So, with the case of sculpture if you want to understand it, you can consider these following things:

 How does it make you feel?

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‘The Toy’

And any emotion can be relevant. See what comes up. Accept. Don’t try to force meaning or words. Relax and think about the sensations.

Does it evoke memories? Give you ideas, inspire you, does it open your imagination? Relax.

Shelter 2012 Sam Shendi

Let your eyes wander around it. This is why seeing sculpture, live in its three-dimensional form  is important and can help understanding. We can only appreciate or connect so much from an image.

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Look at the colours or lack of colour, how do the colours impact or affect you?

Consider  the materials and whether that makes you feel a certain way?

I saw recently on the Yorkshire Sculpture Park instagram page the quote, “Sculptures often explore the edges of objects and spaces, overlapping, puncturing or touching”. What about the shape, the form, the surface. Is it smooth, soft, sharp, curvy, does it cast shadows?

cropped-kiss1.jpgHow do you interact with the piece when you walk around it?

Take your time.

Does it speak to you?  What does that question mean to you?

‘Urgency’ 2012 Sam Shendi

Art is an experience.

It is about analysing your emotional response to it and the potential for the work to open your imagination and idea up into potential a higher plane.

We might look at a Van Gough, Monet or a Rembrandt, a Da Vinci or a Michelangelo and think that we can understand the painting and sculpture because it visually makes sense to us. But go beyond what you see. How does it make you feel?

When I first saw the Mona Lisa, I was shocked by the size. When I wandered around Rothko’s large abstract paintings I was in awe. I’ve seen work that is brilliant, baffling and beguiling.

Often we don’t listen to a piece of music, whatever genre and try to understand it. Art appreciation seems a little harder, a little more perplexing. Why?

ripe 2In both there is composition, creating a scene, a mood, a form of expression.

My husband would say that it isn’t about ‘understanding’.  He thinks that unfortunately what is happening now is a generation of people who are driven by materialism and money and are spending too much time thinking about what to create and it that so much of art has become an object or a product. True artists should be simply driven by the desire to express their imagination. He says for example, “if you look at a Dali painting, what he has done is capture his imagination and introduces it to us. We have the opportunity to see inside Dali’s head”.

I went to see Othello with a very good friend of mine. The performance was modern, minimal and had a very shocking scene in the middle of it, which we were not sure needed to be there. Perhaps, we were seeing something that was inside the director’s head…eek! However, what was very noticeable to us both was that because we had studied it for one of our A-level texts we could understand it ( to a certain degree). Where as, we mused that had we not, much of it would have gone over our heads. Watching this Shakespeare performance 20 years after first reading it, seeing it, analysing and taking it apart made me realise that it is important to learn about an art form. If you do want to understand it to a higher level then it is about deconstructing it and putting it back together.

Living with an artist, a sculptor has enabled me perhaps to deconstruct my own way of thinking and put it back together. I wonder if that is essentially what marriage is asking you to do, when you live in a shared space and choose to share your life with someone different from yourself. Communication is so important.

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.

We listen to reply.”

Susan Stiffelman.

The same in art, we look to form an opinion, we don’t look to observe and learn. In Othello, we are shown how character and emotion plays a vital role in understanding ourselves and others and how the dangers of not harnessing those emotions can them can have. We can either analyse and learn from it or put up a barrier in opening up our channels of understanding. So perhaps Picasso was right, we can’t explain art. We have to be open.

“Observe, accept, release, transform” Yung Pueblo.

looking up

 

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Hidden Symbols

collections, Colour, Exhibitions, Galleries

I am sat with a hot black coffee and some jammy figs trying to resist the urge to pick up the book I am currently reading. The problem I have with reading is that it is incapacitating, I don’t want to do anything else. This week however I am solely in charge of our business and the boys as the sculptor is in London at the Saatchi gallery with a solo booth at Start Art Fair.

This is a tick off the bucket list, although not a complete solo show in the entire space which would be the next step.

The pieces look something again in a totally white space and the advice of ‘less is more’ definitely paid off.

start art pieces

Sam Shendi, Start Art Fair 2018, Saatchi gallery, London.

When we look at art I wonder if we always want a quick fix, we want it to makes sense to us, to understand what we are looking at. Photography, painting and sculpture in the past always portrayed some kind of reality even if colours were at odds with the world around us or angles and lines in wrong places.

Someone interestingly asked the question whether my husband used the golden ratio in his work. With artists who have natural talent the rules are somehow embedded within their psyche they have a sense of why and what looks right. They aren’t necessarily following rules by prescription.  What they see makes sense aesthetically and their way of seeing and thinking is different.

These particular pieces maybe seen by some, as abstract forms, colourful piping for the playground or an object to lock your bike to. Shape or space. For the journey of sculpture it is about a three-dimensional form, how to visualise something from every possible angle. What inspires the form for my husband is all rooted in the human figure. The outline or the line that one would sketch becomes manipulated to show a position or body movement. If you look at some of Henry Moore’s abstract piece they look like pieces of vertebrae, focused on mass and volume. If we were to take the outline of those shapes we have these Shendi pieces. The negative space which the colourful line creates could be the sculpture. Or the line itself the sculpture which simultaneously casts a shadow also creating meaning and symbols. Hence, the name of these pieces: Hidden Symbols.

From this angle, the sculpture on the left shows the infinity symbol which becomes a very different shape looking at it from a different angle, an example of how we can all have alternate view points. The sculpture on the right could be a graph, a symbol of communicating information visually.

It is a journey to abstraction based on reality. In a world where we are over stimulated with reality, in the era of social media and screens of visual reality we no longer need to see sculptures of human bodies literally.

Art can take us into new ways of seeing, expand our ideas and if we sit down long enough, make us think for ourselves and use our own imaginations again.

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.

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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

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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.

 

Blossoming from a road trip

Colour, Connections, Making
blossomed 3

‘Blossomed’. 2017. Sam Shendi. Rudimentary Collection

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

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

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

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

(I wish the weather would!)

Blossomed 1

‘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.