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.

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‘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.

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

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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The Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti

collections, Egyptian

Way back in December my husband said he was closing shop, closing studio for a few weeks. Time Off. Haha who was anyone kidding, the following day he was at the studio creating a new collection. This new collection is steeped in history, a concept, a story.

If you cast your imagination back, back to the time of ancient Egyptians. “The King’s Favourite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose” flourished in 1350 BC. Thutmose is thought to have been the official court sculptor of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten towards the end of his reign.

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The bust of Nefertiti sculpted by Thutmose

The sculptor of the royal house was commissioned to make works of decoration and public art including the well-known Nefertiti Bust (above)

However, the story goes that in the secret spaces of his own studio the sculptor set to work on his own private collection. Looking at the Queen everyday working on the portrait the sculptor fell in love with his muse. So inspired he started working prolifically on full figures presenting her in shapes never seen before, inspired by the beauty of the young queen he explored his own style.

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Sam Shendi in the Studio

Or perhaps the Queen and her sculptor were in love and she commissioned him in secret to work on something that freed him from the constraints of the public design. She wanted him to dedicate his practise to her.

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Sanding

Either way, these sculptures were hidden away in his studio and had no opportunity to be unveiled. To be revealed would make his love known or be too much evidence of love forbidden.

RESIN nEFERTITI

Next layer

They remained unearthed in the studio like beings from another world. Beautiful creations dancing in the shadows.

The possibilities of this story, the discovery of several works in the remains of the sculptor’s studio and suggestions that it was the sculptor alone and not an apprentice that worked on those of Nefertiti suggests some sort of secret.

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Working on the Nefertiti collection in the studio

This story inspires the new collection.

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Studio full of the forbidden sculptures of Nefertiti

Each piece would be positioned on an individual plinth and in two parallel rows of four. These stunning black and white photos below showcase the form, line and perfect finish of these works. Every time my husband finished new work, I think it is the best. Next week I will show you the finished full colour collection.

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Head Shot. Black and White photos of sculptures

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Shendi sculptures are ‘essentialism’

Making, Old Masters

When writing blurbs or bits and pieces for galleries, agents and articles we often describe my husband’s work as minimal, referencing the sixties minimalistic movement and stripping the human form down to the bare essentials.

In my own recent quest for minimising the home, trying to contain our family in a small northern English terrace house, I discovered Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” Just a few pages in it dawned on me that, the way of the essentialist, is very much the way of the sculptor. ‘The relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way”.

Originating from Aristotle, the term ‘essentialism’ is the idea that everything has an essential nature to it. Plato, too was one of the first essentialists, believing in the concept of ideal forms.

Our youngest has asked a few times, “Why don’t you do arms Baba”. The sculptor answers making the point that they aren’t necessary. I have heard him speak about how Egyptian sculpture lasted longer than Roman sculpture because there were no weak points. An almost ideal form that could remain. Roman sculpture today stands without arms because they have been lost to the elements where as the ancient Egyptians made no gaps between arm and torso. The Egyptians knew what was essential but also had a style that would remain in tact. It is in the taking away that more is added, and in this case time.

Not only does my husband sculpt in an essentialist way I feel he lives his life to that aim. He lives by design (pardon the pun)  perhaps it goes hand in hand, he is so ruthless in his pursuit of sculpting and because he is not yet a full-time artist his time has to be used to purposefully. He has a, “disciplined, systematic approach for determining where his highest point of contribution lies, and then his execution of these things appear to be almost effortless”. That effortlessness makes it easy to think that it is un-challenging or un-demanding and consequently, I become forgetful of how hard he works.

In this journey from realism to the minimal my husband’s work takes away all that is not essential to the story he is telling. “An Essentialist thinks almost everything is non-essential”. For the pieces are like three-dimensional stories in a very contemporary, minimal form. Play is an important part of our development because it doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself. My husband’s work is playful in the use of colour but also the shapes and themes which are provoked.

‘The essential life is living a life that really matters, a life lived without regret. If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your tie and energy in it then it is difficult to regret the choice you make. You become proud of the life you have chosen to live.”

In short, I think Sam Shendi is up there as one living an essential life and consequently his master pieces mould into an art movement of Essentialism. Then of course I should say, it is essential that they are seen, that the work is viewed and appreciated by the many. This is what the sculptor is working so hard to achieve.

Starting the year with serenity

Uncategorized

I always feel the December holidays are hibernation and a time for slowing down. I hit against it every year but this year was more resigning to it. However, 2017 has begun and already a week passed, time stops for no one.

It hasn’t been the best of starts to the year for one reason and another. Some trivial and some profound. Yet I am hopefully 2017 will be a good year.

Today the rain outside is relentless and as we drove to school this morning the eldest said it still felt dark. Here it is a gloomy dismal day and it though it doesn’t totally reflect my mood, there is a stillness needed.

So I post some stunning images in black and white, sombre and shadows and think about serenity.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

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‘Hammer head’ in progress at the studio (2016)

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

History
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The gallery, The Civic, Mother and Child by Sam Shendi

It’s about 14 years since I met ‘the sculptor’ and although when I met him he wasn’t practising very much, he did an occasional clay sculpture but he was painting and drawing all the time, as that is what his space limited him to. Over the years as we increased our space his practice developed along with it. We had a fantastic attic flat for a year where lots of clay maquettes were made. When we bought our first house they survived the move and were all sat on a folding dining room table until one night we heard a crash and the table had collapsed along with probably 50 or so clay sculptures.

Just after I had our first child I was sat in the living room and the midwife came to visit,  3 clay heads lined up on the floor and she pointed to them and said that will have to stop. I never really understood what she meant. I was in the fog of being a new mum. I hope she meant that we would have to stop putting them on the floor and that she didn’t mean to stop the practice.

We did stop putting them on the floor but the studio then was a tiny shed in our yard until about perhaps 4 years ago – I’ve lost count, when we finally got a studio space and this was pivotal in the development of his work.

In January I will have been online with this blog for 6 years and this is my 250th post. And in this time we have come so far. On Saturday in the weekend Yorkshire post, we were so excited to see this:

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Saturday 26th November, Yorkshire Post Magazine

 

To be listed alongside Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore is a dream come true. We are lucky in Yorkshire to have had these two greats among our history, heritage and it is quite almost unbelievable to be seeing ‘the sculptor’s’ name in a top 5 list with them. From my point of view, it is so deserving and so true.

It is great publicity for our other achievement, a solo show opening at The Civic in Barnsley. Yesterday my husband and the team at the gallery set up and it’s all ready for the private view on Friday evening and the show runs until January 28th 2017. The photos he took of the set up look stunning. The exhibition is entitled Mother and Child and it was interesting looking back and my first three blog entries all of mother and child pieces. Mother and Child is an endless subject and timeless. This exhibition at The Civic is very much about storytelling.

mother-and-child-collection

‘The colour blue is prevalent throughout the collection, and is used in a way that it respectfully represents the struggles which go with motherhood; the depression, the sleepless nights, the fear of losing the child, the back pain, the swollen feet, the pain of giving birth and going beyond one’s own comfort, the sacrifice.

It seems ironic that the journey we have taken in developing the sculptor’s success into the art world mirrors my own journey as a mother. When I look at these pieces they are monuments of the last 10 years of motherhood for me. But they are everyone. They will touch and impact on anyone who sees them. They are a reminder of the truth, motherhood is one of the greatest and unrecognised and often under appreciated roles on earth.

If you are in Yorkshire anytime from  3rd to January 28th I would recommend a visit to The Civic. Open Tuesday -Saturday, 10am- 5pm.

Aim high, dream big, Go Global

Public Art
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‘The Bench’ in Lister Park, Bradford 2015

This morning the sculptor waits at the studio for a transport company coming to pick up ‘The Bench’ to take it to Manchester airport. Way back in March we got an email saying a client was interested in it and could it be ready quickly. So my husband went down to London, dismantled it from its site outside Canary Wharf, brought it back re-polished it and got it ready, made crates and then it sat in the studio waiting. Then we were told the client wanted to wait to June. So this is what sparked the desperate need for the storage unit.

‘The Bench’ was sat waiting in the storage unit and we began to think perhaps it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Then this Monday morning we got a call from Manchester airport to say they were coming to collect a package for Taiwan. My husband said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have anything going to Taiwan’. “Are you the artist, Sam Shendi,” they asked. For some reason, we thought it was going to USA, apparently not!. We are really going global! So yesterday my husband fixed more wheels to the bottom of the crates to enable him and the driver to carefully wheel it to the van. This was not without hiccup as he almost dropped it on himself, I was horrified to hear, as he recounted his tale of trying to lift them himself.

Last night, the sculptor starred out the window almost dumbstruck (and I say almost because those who know him will know this is quite impossible) by the thought his sculpture was going to the other side of the world. I am not sure what was going through his mind. It is a huge achievement, that’s for sure, but it still feels we are climbing a very huge mountain. This is just one peak on the journey.

My youngest son sometimes asks me if he thinks that one day he might be a professional footballer. Someone mentioned recently that it is such a small chance that a kid playing footy can make it. But then I think, his father came from a small village in the middle of Northern Egypt with all kinds of stories that you wouldn’t imagine that one day far from there he would be shipping a huge sculpture off to Taiwan , sold through Saatchi art. Aim high, dream big, I say.

Pace and the art of being in the moment

Making

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

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

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

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‘Defeated’ in progress

Working on the Mother and Child collection in the studio

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

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

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

Practicality and the art of tidying

Colour, Connections, Exhibitions, Galleries, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching

I have been itching, quite literally, as my eczema has been so bad but an investment in a pair of marigolds seems to be helping with the problem. Suggested by my husband, no problems only solutions. However, that was not my point. I have been desperate to carry on with my sorting and de-cluttering since the boys went back to school on Tuesday. I have been at the shop though, as ever practical, my husband ordered a storage unit for the side of the studio to put in work which is not in exhibition but finished so to create more space in the studio for creating. He has been impatiently wanting this solution for a while.

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He booked out a whole day to wait for the delivery, only to be told they couldn’t make it as they needed a special machine. They said they could bring it at 6pm so my husband waited until 7.30pm and it still didn’t arrive. 8am the following morning we received a call saying they were outside the studio. We both wonder why we are so excited about storage and tidying at the moment.

Today, the sculptor was up early (3.30am) again London bound as we have excitedly sold ‘Madame Butterfly’. Then he and his right hand man are heading on to deliver the remainder of the calligraphy collection to the Hannah Pescher sculpture gardens.

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Some of the calligraphy collection heading to Hannah Pescher

So I have been in the shop all week unable to carry on my house de-clutter project. However, since my last post which resonated with many people a dear friend pointed me in the direction of the KonMari method. So, I have had time this week to do a little research. The method has been created by a Japanese lady Marie Kondo.

Japan and all things Japanese are in my blood, it feels or has definitely have influenced the shaping of me in someway. When I was 18 I went to a small village to live and work in a Leonard Cheshire home. At that time I had only ever been to France and Holland, so the culture shock was huge but I embraced and enjoyed the deep and spiritual meaning which seeped into every aspect of the lifestyle and way of being.

This sculpture, ‘Madame Butterfly’ is the outline of a woman wearing a Kimono. A geisha girl. The opera is very much about the meeting of east and west and there is such contrast between the attitudes and styles of the western world and the eastern traditions. As in the simplicity I desire for the home, this style of the theme of work by husband is about stripping back the outline to the simplest form.

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Looking into Marie Kondo’s style and her art of tidying was a great reminder of the Japanese art of being and living. Something I have not been doing and not obviously picked up from my time in Japan as I looked last night at the disaster and disorganisation of my domain. So, eager to implement it, I ‘KonMari’ -ed my wardrobe which is where she suggests to start. With clothing. This seems where I have been going wrong. Starting with all my Japanese memorabilia, letters and souvenir boxes was too hard. I need to learn how to sense whether an item ‘Spark’s Joy’ or not. According to her, by the time I have worked through clothes, books, documents and miscellaneous only then can I tackle those things that have meaning.

In just two hours I folded my huge pile of clothes, origami style and feel instantly inspired. Today wearing a skirt I have never worn before, so much so that the boys were shocked this morning and wondered if I was taking them to school with it on. A skirt which I bought in Egypt when I was staying with my sister-in-law for an extended period of time during maternity leave. So immediately the item has a memory, a story attached to the item of clothing and in this case it spark’s joy. Although, I did have to negotiate the steps up to school a little bit unused to the length of dress.

In today’s busy, constant buying and consumer driven world we all seem to have a deep desire to get back to a more basic way of life. Once we have detached from the past we can focus on the here and now and have no fear of the future- this is the theory. Can we put it into practice?

As the sculptor parts with another sculpture to someone who has purchased it as an item which will hopefully spark joy for them, I wonder what to do with my treasured kimono? Defiantly not something practical to be wearing on the school run.

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Kimono Section of ‘Madame Butterfly’

Practice and the art of freeing ourselves from possessions

Making, Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wordless Wednesday and non-sculpture

Making
Dash

‘New studio helper,’ story to follow