After several years of carving, crafting, working and whipping up huge sculptural stories, tonight in Johannesburg the opening of my husband solo show will showcase all that work in one space at Graham’s Fine Art Gallery (photos from the gallery)
The sculptor was amazed to see himself larger than life. ( I see this everyday!) but literally plastered all over the building.
A month at sea, a stay in the port and then the drive from Durban to Johannesburg to the gallery, the sculptures arrived not quite without hiccup.
A few damaged and the repair kit missing added to the drama. However, hoping today that has all been fixed. I haven’t heard any updates so praying that everything is going well.
So he spent an intense day unloading and setting up.
Yesterday, he had interviews.
Tonight the show will open. I am so excited all the way back home here in North Yorkshire and anticipating hearing all about it….find out more tomorrow.
At the beginning of the year my husband took a trip to Johannesburg to check out a gallery there which was interested in his work. His trip turned into his usual adventure with tales to tell and amusing anecdotes to recount. Excitingly though he was really impressed by the space and what the gallery could deliver.
So began the next process of getting the sculptures ready and wrapped. Arranging meetings with the shipping company and which sculptures were going on the voyage. It was almost a huge relief when they left the studio revealing again space to start creating again.
The pieces looked like Christo’s work, wrapped and draped:
So I think a total of 24 sculptures and a sketch book to be framed and mounted were all at sea for the last month. Now the anticipation is of them arriving safely from Durban travelling to Graham’s Gallery in Johannesburg for a large solo exhibition titled, ‘Seasons’. This is including the collections, ‘Mother and Child’, The Giants and the collection of heads.
His work explores the human condition and the human form, paring the visible shape down to it’s most minimal to describe the body as a simply a vessel which houses a shared human experience.
‘Seasons’ is a word I have only recently come across, being used as a term to describe the period of time we are in, not only the climatic shift from Winter into Spring. I am in a shifting season I think to match the time of year. Especially in motherhood do we experience extreme and often changing seasons but anyone experiences different times in their life and approaches to those moment. There is always the potential for change.
It seams a little surreal that this month on May 25th it will be the opening to his large solo show. There is still quite a lot of preparation to do before then and the sculptor will have to fly out before hand to check out each pieces do any necessary repairs and set up the exhibition. It’s going to be amazing to see such a collection in a professional space all together.
The ancient Greeks told tales of giant beings called Titans. The sculptor and I might have been cleverer to call this collection The Titans but perhaps ‘The Giant collection ‘is more straightforward. One Titan’s name was Atlas, he was the leader in a war against Zeus, the sky and thunder-god Zeus. After the defeat of the titans Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of the earth and hold the heavens on his shoulders to prevent the earth and sky resuming their primordial embrace.
There has been a misconception that Atlas carries the world on his shoulders as classical sculpture often shows Atlas holding the celestial sphere but it has been misunderstood to be a globe. Atlas therefore embodies the celestial axis and is the personification of endurance as he was a sentence to hold up the sky for eternity.
In later myth he finally turns to stone and becomes what we know now as the Atlas Mountains. Around 500 years ago Mercator made a book of maps and named it an Atlas, Keeper of the World.
In classical European architecture an, ‘atlas’ is a support sculpted in the form of a man, which takes places of a column. Named ‘Atlantes’ these express extreme effort in their function. Head is often bent forward to support the weight of the structure above them across their shoulders.
Here, in this contemporary version of Atlas, Shendi depicts the head bent forward but in an almost ironic twist we see across this titan’s shoulders a collection of birds.
This sculpture depicts the notion that today we carry a weight on our shoulders, which often isn’t as heavy as we might believe. Most of humanity share similar experiences and memories that can weigh us down. The use of colour in this piece represents memories and emotions. The figure here represents us, the birds our problems, which have become larger than the reality of them.
Birds perched together decreases the risk of predators and they usually choose places to roost, which are safe. The size of this giant hasn’t prevented the birds from staying. We associate ‘giants’ with the idea that they have power or a physical presence over us. In this case the birds are the more empowered presence. Just as we can sometimes not shake off our worries or the past, this giant man is unable to shake off the birds.
“That great giant, Atlas, whose shoulders bear the circling sky.” Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 172. Birds often circle the sky following migratory patterns using the sun to navigate by day and the stellar compass at night which depends on the constellations. So they have a need for this ‘Atlas god of astronomy and navigation.
So this piece is heavy in it’s symbolism, rich in its references to classical art and architecture and also brings to modern society a philosophical idea and message that sometimes we need to let go of the heavy burden which weighs us down. Especially here in the ‘western’ world where our problems by comparison should be fleeting.
Summer time sees sculpture gardens and exhibitions outdoors. Although we seem to be having a particularly wet summer and yesterday on my dog walk I came home drenched in my winter coat and wellies, but the benefit of the dog is it does get you out. I feel like there is some older wiser alter ego stomping this mantra into me. When my husband took these pieces down to Surrey it was a pouring down so he didn’t take any photos in situ so we have waited for the one above from Hannah Pescher Sculpture Garden more photos on the site and Surrey Life Magazine took the one below.
As it has been so damp I have had my head stuck in a good book but it has meant I have been transported into a different world. Reading has that effect on me where I am consumed and I am unable to do much else. Fret not, the children have been fed and chauffeured and a little bit of team Lego building has happened. Otherwise I have been burrowing away with snacks and duvet and a novel like a sultry teenager. Thankfully I have finished it this morning whilst in the shop and so normal life can resume. Meanwhile, the sculptor has had a video film take place in the studio this morning (I guess more to follow when we see the results) and on Friday he goes down to Doddington Hall with an array of pieces for their sculpture exhibition, Fine Art outdoors and Indoors from July 30th- September 11th 2016.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another day, another journey, another sound, another sculpture. Another trip to London for the sculptor and the alarm was set for 2.30, which shrilly woke us both up. I can’t complain though. I got a lie in because the puppy went for his first long road trip and for me, just having the two boys felt like a ‘doddle’ for the first time! We still only just managed to get to school on time though as I did several jobs and left getting ready to go to the shop, until the last-minute as usual. A little bit worried about the puppy in the van but need not be as apparently he has been fine. The complication, as there always has to be one is that both sculptor and right hand man have coincidentally left their wallets in their cars. Let’s just hope they can re-fuel and don’t have to sit on the roadside like last time!
A few more sculptures were delivered to the Hignell Gallery, so they now have several pieces from the Calligraphy collection. The main purpose for the trip though, seems a bit surreal as the mission is to collect ‘The Bench’ from London but it still feels premature to declare its new home as the ink has not dried as they say. It was monumental that it was positioned across from Canary Wharf for over 6 months after being in Bradford. The sculpture itself will have sat and rested in very different locations.
The piece was created I seem to recall, in thinking of a sculpture for a hospital, with the idea of people supporting each other. Furthermore, the idea that public benches hold memories for all the people who have sat and contemplated, thought, spoken, cried, celebrated over the years in that one place. Symbolic in that the bench doesn’t see the differences between, colour, education, class but contains the memory of everyone who has passed by.
It is also the most minimalistic way of showing a male and a female, with references of Henry Moore’s King and Queen it is a modern 21st century interpretation. As with all my husband’s work, the simple brightly coloured exterior is a way to attract your attention but the deeper meaning a message to contemplate.
This morning my eldest and I looked at the words of an old piece of paper with Desiderata, that I used to have in the bathroom growing up. It seemed to inspire him as it has done me over the years. Memories can be found in strange places. As I listened to the band James on Radio 2 today it takes me back to the journey of growing up with their anthems as a soundtrack. 25 years since they realised ‘Sit down’. So find a bench to sit on and ‘sit down’ and remember.
I didn’t think it through, how I was going to write 1600 plus words a day #nanowrimo as well as everything else that needs to be done. I am writing everyday though and that is itself a huge milestone. I am averaging about 1400 words each day. So I have just gone over the half way point writing 25 thousand words in 18 days. Sometimes it’s important to focus on what has been done, achieved than what hasn’t been done. It’s a good lesson to learn.
I have neglected this blog a little though, which I had thought might happen. It is a little unfortunate timing when we are about to have the first major solo show in Munich starting next week.
So the sculptor is also whizzing around, trying to tie up loose ends here with the business and then packing everything he needs for next week. Approximately 57 pieces will be packed into the van on before it goes over land and sea. The work gets loaded on Friday and the sculptor flies on Saturday. I am just praying the rain and wind will cease, a little at least. Again at each milestone we achieve with promoting the sculpture it’s important to remember just how far we have come.
Will aim to keep a little track of what will be happening in Germany next week (just to add to my to do list!)
This collection represents 10 children aged between four and nineteen. Either standing individually as sculptures alone or as a collective in one large sculpture.
In this concept the presentation is the human body as a vessel. Living in the 21 century we are now able to replace human parts, organs change our physical appearance but this doesn’t change the essence of who we are.
Our bodies are containers filled with emotions that have an impact on us. The colours used on these pieces are inspired by American minimalism in the 1900’s. They symbolize the emotion and the individual.
The sculptures are made from steel pipes used for building construction. The pipes sat in the studio staring at the sculptor and then the concept appeared. They were witnessing his actions. They are the human figure in the simplest form. Each piece has a name from the continents around the world, representing children who suffer directly or indirectly from the decisions and behaviour of adults. Which in turn affects them and their own experiences. What we witness or don’t witness in life shapes us and then make us who we are.
These columns are the bases of something, the foundations, pillars that hold up the building. Our children are the next generation, the future. What are they witnessing today?
The modern day is the witnessing of troubled times, but today specifically is a celebration of a legacy for millions around the world and a message for all of humanity.