Shendi sculptures are ‘essentialism’

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.

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Sky, Earth, Water

I have caught some beautiful days this summer. Wandering. Walking. Captivated by the clouds and flowers this year. Always looking up for some loftier inspiration. I dart around like the swallows in my pursuit for easier homemaking, exercise, minimising and reducing waste, writing and looking after our business and the boys. Reminded recently about the need to be grateful for the place where we are at, both  mentally and physically. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Sometimes grounding ourself in the importance of seeing something through, brings us back to earth.

Sky Earth Water (2016)

Heads together

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‘The rough collection’ (2016) Sam Shendi

My husband seems to be able to tap into some subliminal subconscious web of communication. There have been several times where he has been working on something which parallels what is happening else where.

These heads were created at the end of last year. Usually working to a smooth, perfected finish these pieces are the opposite. Rough and ready to represent the experiences in life that leave a mark and shape us. Entitled; ‘Mr Green’, ‘Mr Blue’, ‘Mr White’, ‘Mr Red’ and ‘Mr Grey’, colours often symbolising mood, emotion, feelings, expressions. I have put this image with the sculptor in the scene to show the scale of them. As a group, ‘Head’s together’ which yesterday I stumbled across is a campaign, http://www.headstogether.org.uk ,which is spearheaded by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is raising the awareness of “unresolved mental problems” and “wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.”

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Sketch by Sam Shendi
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Mr Blue (2016) Sam Shendi

I thought it would be interesting to show a sketch and sculpture together for a change. I love seeing the lines on paper and then the shift into three dimensions. The bird symbolises the idea of voices or the noise pecking away at the mind.

Mental health has huge stigma, often misunderstood and a reoccurring theme in my husband’s work partly I think because of his increasing awareness of how much it was hidden and not spoken of growing up in rural Egypt. It’s the same here in the UK but with media and celebrities speaking out it is something being uncovered and discussed more and more. It would appear it is a global issue on the rise of being discussed. Again, these pieces show a visual story. A visual interpretation of a subject, theme, idea which we all have connection with an experience of, a shared similarity beyond the differences of culture, class, education, gender.

Less is More

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‘King and Queen’ (2016)

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ is a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. I have really begun to tap into this idea of simplicity. It began last year when we cleared out the attic space in an attempt to start converting it into a inhabitable space. Full, it was of boxes, of my things. So I started to de-clutter and was recommended the book, ‘Spark Joy’ by Marie Kondo. Since then I have delved online into the world of Minimalism with countless sites and support groups. It is a work in process and I still have a way to go, being a natural hoarder. Tied into this is also the realisation of how much waste we produce and in minimising somethings I am also looking at how to reduce my own waste.

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Before you get any ideas of me producing no rubbish, I have to point out that we are still producing endless amounts of blank bin liners full of waste every week and that is what shocks me. Shocks me into action… a little bit. So, I start with myself. I am trying to be consistent in making my own dairy-free milks to reduce the number of tetrapacks. Our milkman delivers the milk in glass bottles which I rinse and return but my eldest and I are no longer having cow’s milk. Here in lies a little problem, of how you get everyone onboard in these journeys.

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‘The Bench’ (2014)

My husband’s work has always been around the human condition, the human figure. In many ways, if we think about form it is hardly surprising that sculptors have always been preoccupied with the human body. ‘Stripping away to the most simplistic form’ is what has become integral to his practise as a sculptor.

Clement Mont said “Very often people confuse simple with simplistic . The nuance is lost on most’. Within art in the 1960’s minimalism was about “painters and sculptors avoiding overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works.” My husband is referencing this movement in many ways, perhaps in use of colour and form but using it as a platform for storytelling and communicating deep human messages. In a time when, globally, nationally and individually we seem to be hankering after meaning.

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‘The Bow’ (2012)

Hans Hoffman who was pivotal in abstract expressionism stated that, “The ability to simplify mean to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”.

In the art of de-cluttering your possessions, this rings true. We live in a world of consumerism and a society driven on the belief that acquiring possessions and wealth will lead to greater happiness. A study from Princeton University shows that too much disorganized stimuli simply overwhelms the brain. I am finding that getting rid of the excess is leading to more time, more space and more opportunities. Only at the start of my journey, I am already feeling the benefits, peeping through like the snowdrops beginning to emerge from the frosted soil.

I am finding my ability to the house work a more pleasurable process and less time-consuming. If we take pleasure in the things we do have, we can value their role and be less wasteful in what we consume. Although it is not to become another thing we aim to achieve just to keep up with others, or put pressure on ourselves for perfection perhaps.

‘Nature was pleased with simplicity’ Issac Newton believed and that ‘Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity and not the multiplicity and confusion of things. With the world around us being a noise of confusion, the art world should be responding by giving us something beautiful, simple yet telling a visual story and reminding us what is means to be human. Slightly bias, but I think my husband’s sculptures do just that.

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‘Isolated’ (2013)

Lost words

 

Last week I got back into my writing and wrote a long post, ‘Less is more’, saved it to come back to in an attempt to re read and edit what I am writing and be a little more conscientious. I occasionally do this (not that often) and the saving system works fine. However, this time it has cleverly morphed the post I wrote the last week with one I had not ‘published’ yet written 6 months ago that was quietly sitting in the ‘draft’ file. I am not even sure how this has happened but the bulk of what I have written is lost into a virtual ether that I feel my brain can’t get back.

I sit here feeling frustrated about all the quotes I had sourced and the links to other things, it had the making of being a really good entry, I was sure. Lost. Made me think about something my husband had put up on one of his social media a few weeks ago. Ironically, someone commented that they wondered what Mrs Shendi thought. I was puzzled as to what they meant. Why were they interested in my opinion about what my husband does with his work?

I know the sculptor can grab a bit of clay at anytime and sculpt it into a head, so easily that it makes you think anyone can do it. With words, perhaps it should be as easy, to re-write something that has already been written. Will it be better rewriting it? At this moment it feels irretrievable, gone. Evaporated. Do writers create as easily as sculptors or is moulding words into a coherent piece of writing a different process?

The mindful meditation that I have been trying to work on this year reassures me that yes everything happens for a reason. There is a purpose as to why that piece of writing is not to be ‘published’. As I quietly, calmly sit here with the ‘serenity’ I am pursuing, a little cartoon image of me stopping like a 2-year-old and having a tantrum, going bright red with anger and frustration pops up in my mind’s eye. But it’s just not me. The only thing that seems to anger me at the moment is my boys not listening to me, and I am working on that because I think we all have selective hearing once in a while, especially when we are asked to do something menial like pick up a sock! So to take heed of my husband’s lesson. I can do it again.

clay-head-3“Since the time of the University until now, I have created so many portraits. Yet I always break them after I finish and recycle the clay. The same piece of clay that I used in this portrait has been recycled since 2008. I think I have made about 8 different portraits and somehow I stop and then the only thing I want to do is break it, instead of casting it. It feels as though if I were to cast it and have it around me in the studio, it would be as though everything I made afterwards would look like it. These days I could stay 2 years without creating one portrait. I just get a feeling that my hands need to create a portrait. The more I let my hands decide to create the sculpture, the quicker and the easier it comes. The point is, I was never frightened to break it after the hard work because I always say to myself I can do it again.”clay-head-1

Starting the year with serenity

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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Body Language in its new home

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It is quite wonderful to see a sculpture on a journey, from material to making, exhibition and then to rest with someone purchasing it for their new home. We don’t often get to see where a piece will end up and the surroundings it is finally situated in. So it is a rare treat to see this piece in situ.

We don’t often know where we will end up, where we are going or what is to come. We can spend time and energy thinking and worrying about that and I have done my fair share of that. However, I’m putting into practise the mindfulness of being in the moment, the here and now. Actually this focus takes away any future thought. I become more aware of how cold my fingers are as I type and how the rhythmic dancing of the tapping on the keys warms them up a little. Sitting in the shop with my blanket wrapped around me to stay as warm as I can, I look out on to the wet drizzle and white sky. I feel as a family the need for hibernation. The boys are tired, not great fans of the outdoors in this wintry, with their Egyptian blood running through their veins. The sculptor is exhausted from non stop working. I like this time of year for slowing down, reflection and introspection, I like to think for more reading and writing yet I am feeling slow to respond to that inclination. It will come. It is what it is. Nothing happens ahead of its time.

The Sepia Woman – For National Poetry Day

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Sleepless nights (2016) Sam Shendi

The Sepia Woman

I’m not an octopus, I’ve said it a thousand times

yet I often have one wrapped around me, I should have read the signs

as I’m sinking, dragging, sagging to the ocean floor.

I’m not an oyster tethered to its rock

though Cancarian I embrace a shell on my back

I chance direction from this, to that

Oh to be in the ocean blue,

blue is something I seem to do

to wear, to feel, to dream

of that independent creature swimming serene,

not on the ocean bed, scuttling

shy solitary cuttlefish,

this elegant creature with remarkable eyes

masking emotions on its rides,

blending in with the world around

spraying black ink

With its dark moods, a sombre cloud

 inky fish, this ink with which I write

and have now spilt, what a mess

I’m cross with myself but have to confess,

if it had been anyone else, how angry I’d have been

Yet, look now at what I have seen

the most beautiful free-flowing design has appeared,

So scrap all the rules and conformity

Patterns all rigid, perfection for normality

I’m messy, I’m inky, I’m free to be me

Now ink of sepia, you colour of brown

I wish you could photograph and capture my frown,

furrowed lines on my head, cross-examine

the state of the dye which has spread

blood like,

tea stained,

brown, black and blue,

used with creative spontaneity through

history,

for writing, drawing, thinking in hue,

for colours is where attraction will lay,

with colours for moods, they change, react

to any words which others say.

So I create, I move, I dance with abandon

because I’m not an oyster afraid of the sand,

with a walrus near by and a carpenter to hand,

I’m not an octopus, I’ve said it a thousand times

yet I often have one wrapped around me, I should have read the signs

I am the cuttlefish, the sepia woman

writer of verse and a poet of rhymes.

T.Shendi 2016.

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Adult Conversation (2016) Sam Shendi

 

Creativity, Imagination, Creation

 

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‘Annunciation’ by Sam Shendi

This month has been our ‘retreat’, cyber hibernation and other withdrawals to create time for spiritual concentration. This has not left much room for words. I posted on Monday images only, partly because I so many photographs there was not much more space for letters. Also, my whole being has slowed down and no words were appearing. I was having a blank.

On my morning walk wearing my ridiculously large ‘insect like’ sunglasses to keep out the pollen, the clouds really caught my attention. Somehow the lenses were acting like a contrast heighten button so the voluminous cotton wool like clouds looked even more impressive. I was thinking about cotton wool and how the pads you can get don’t have the same aptness for thinking of a cloud. The poetic line, ‘wander lonely as a cloud’, wandered into my mind, however the sky today was far from the image of a lonely cloud. It was a gathering for a cloud event, like a stack of candy floss before the opening of a fair. It’s magic when you can see the clouds making a shape of something. This made me think of the sculpture and his talent for making shapes out of things. He said recently that he has no imagination but a storage unit of ideas. In interviews he is often asked the question, ‘Where do you get inspiration from?’ Living with him I can verify that there seems to be an endless supply to ideas. I have never known him to have to think of an idea or to have to search or research for inspiration. He never has a blank. Creativity sits in his mind like the clouds over Yorkshire.

Clouds move, sometimes you can see it slowly, sometimes fast but it is a rare thing to have a cloudless sky over our little village on the edge of the valley. In all this cloud contemplation, I noticed to the left it was a smattering of shades of grey where as to my right it was a different scene, pure blue burst appeared in patches hinting at the suggestion of blue skies behind. If you showed someone who had never seen the sky before my view to my left they would be surprised if you said sky is blue. Sky seems even more rarely these days to be blue here in the North of England. We know that beyond the clouds is a vast expanse of ‘blue’ that we can’t see. In each of the ten sculptures for the ‘Mother and Child’ exhibition the sculptor has used blue. Colour is the key to my husband’s sculptures. They don’t merely serve an aesthetic or decorative quality, they are the meaning behind the piece. The colour is crucial to the philosophy as well as adding a lusory quality.

Colour does evoke feelings and emotions. Why does a blue sky make us feel happier than a grey and white one? We often think that are emotions are influenced by external factors when actually it is more often our thoughts that create our feelings. We are often clouded, pardon the pun, in our vision by what we see before us and are unaware of the unseen, the design behind it all. Again thinking of the sky at night, I love it when it is clear and we can see a few of the twinkling stars. But when I look upwards and see just those few stars, I remember when I had the opportunity to camp in the Serengeti, many moons ago and the awe and wonder at the littering of lights above which was a huge realisation as to how much we aren’t always able to see.

As I spend this time in spiritual practise I focus on how all these marvellous signs in nature indicate to me a creator. I am acutely aware that we don’t all share this view. We were, ‘made in tribes so that we may learn from one another’. We just don’t tend to focus on the learning and veer more towards the misunderstanding. There are so many paths up the mountain and everyone takes their own time and twists off the path. For some, their view-point may be a bit like the grey cloudy sky. They may be faced with a sheer rock face with no possible foot holes so the view of the mountain is obscured and to them non-existent. As with viewing the sculptures, behind what lies in front of us there is often a deeper meaning.