Salah v Shendi and the love of success.

Connections, Egyptian, Public Art, Steel

 

This week has been an extra busy one. A trip to London for the sculptor, there and back in a night and day with no sleep. The sculptures  looking fantastic in 99 Bishopgate, London. A Yorkshire cross-country event, where a select few get medals but the completion of the course is a success unto itself, and Young Voices in Manchester arena for the youngest and I. Where singers stood on stage and talked about it being their childhood dream. Behind them the 6,000 strong children’s choir of which maybe  a handful will become singers. We also had various  mundane doctors and dentist appointments for us all to juggle in through the mix.

It was also my husband’s birthday though sadly the anniversary of his Father’s passing one year ago on the same day. With that and recovering from toothache, the reality of turning another year older was not such a celebration.

Apparently moments after his birth, his father ran with the newborn baby to his parents village to show off proudly the baby boy. My husband grew up in a small village on the Nile delta more than 120 kilometers from Cairo. Born in the 1970’s the landscape was very different to it is today, more fields more open space. He also had a few years of his childhood in Saudi Arabia and Yemen with a mix of family memebers, very opposing experiences in each country. So his whole childhood wasn’t centred in Egypt and wasn’t an easy one. It was almost a bit nomadic in some ways and this, I think created a sort of detachment from people and objects a little. It gave him a self-reliance and a resilience, perhaps.

His life story is different from Salah’s (the Egyptian Liverpool player for those of you who may not know who I am talking about) who was born a number of years later into a modern generation but a comparable village on the Nile delta North of Cairo. Both seem to have a unique determination to succeed from a young age, although perhaps Salah knew his talent was football sooner than Shendi realised it was sculpting. Despite different pursuits they both had a dream and a remarkable journey in pursuing it.

Of course, the fickle footballing world has made Salah’s story that much more accessible than that of my husband’s. Already in a book form suitable for young readers, I have been reading about the young footballer to my youngest son which has been inspiring but brought home the similarity of their roots. The speed to which Salah has gained notoriety is a bit different though. An artists pathway more slow and steady but with the advantage of having a potentially longer career span. My husband gets frustrated that footballers get so much attention and followers and that we become tribal when supporting football teams. He still enjoyed watching the Liverpool matches with us when we were in Egypt though!

Art and football are two antipodal worlds. However, I do think sometimes sport can become an art. Our youngest son loves them both When he doesn’t want to be a professional footballer he wants to be a fashion designer and consequently  Shendi and Salah are both his heroes at the moment. Obviously as his Mother I believe he can do either and I want him to be aspirational. But realistically both are reknowned endeavours which require raw talent, experience and a lot of luck.

It is interesting to me, that what seems to define success at the moment and how the world tends to view success is in terms of material wealth, career and salary. I feel there are more important routes to follow than a material one. People seem very quick to drop their dreams for a security blanket of a job which will enable them to buy the house, the car, the holiday.

Yet if Shendi and Salah can rise up into the art and sporting worlds from small villages in Egypt, overcoming all kinds of obstacles along the way, then it feels like anything is possible. However, one of my favourite quotes from a Disney film is,  “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere”. Having the talent at something has to be a starting point. At what point do these dreams become realised and when is it deemed a success. Why do we love success?

With my eldest I have been reading a book about people who have overcome and endured hardships yet become successful. The message being that failing and flopping is the most important part of succeeding.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people

into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

I think that it more obvious when you lose in sport but maybe easier to get back up again but can you ever fail? In Art it is vague in both being successful and knowing when you’ve lost. It seems to me more of a case of enduring the rises and falls but remaining focused on the direction of the dream.  This image below captures so well, ‘Get your dream’, which is perhaps a better way of being successful.

GET YOUR DREAM

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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?

toy7

‘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.

cropped-pink-for-cover.jpg

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

 

What is in a name, Shendi?

Making

 

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.

head

‘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’

 

 

 

 

‘SHE’

Colour, Exhibitions, Galleries, Mother and Child, Relationships

she

Just noticed that SHE is the first three letters of SHENDI, which has nothing to do with the name of the exhibition. Shendi is the name of a town in northern Sudan, situated on the east bank of the Nile River 150 km northeast of Khartoum. I don’t know if the family name traces back to the town but it does have a certain ring to it. When I first met my husband my brother was only 14 and took it on as a nickname, not quite sure exactly why. I debated for a while about taking the name on, in Egypt woman don’t take the husband’s name, they keep their father’s name. All to do with lineage rather than belonging to a man, fascinating.

The exhibition  is simply ‘SHE’ as in, female, woman, girl. It is a joint exhibition with the delicate painter  Anu Samarüütel which nicely compliments the solid sculptures of ‘Shendi. My husband went to set up today on this sunny day after a busy day. I will upload some of the set up pictures on my new facebook page ‘The Sculptors Wife’. The colour used by both artists is uplifting and cheerful. Anu has strong links with fashion and design as does my husband’s work. I hope I can get over and see it, the exhibition will run for  a month at Red Brick Mill, Batley.

red she

‘The Keyhole man’ guarding the door for the SHE exhibition!

Design links

Colour, Connections, Digital Art, Relationships

Last week was London Design Festival and some of my husband’s work went down with designer Anthony Hartley‘s furniture. One of our digital prints was sold which was fantastic news! Anthony has a fantastic space in Haworth which my husband is now showing some of his work in, www.damsidemill.com. It is a great up and coming project which collaborates these two fantastic designers and others. They met at The other art fair but both work out of Yorkshire.

In my last entry I spoke of fashion and art and the same applies to design and art. where does one start and the other end? Sometimes the boundaries are blurred. In the same way my blogging boundaries are becoming a bit blurred. I am starting to have an internal debate about whether I should branch out and have a blog, for entries like this dedicated to what is happening in the world of Sam Shendi Sculptor , to be more factually about event and news and leave The sculptor’s wife to the entries of my own ramblings matching images of my husbands work. What do you think?