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.

Understanding other cultures (and sculptures)

collections, Connections, Egyptian, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching
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‘Defender’ 2017 Only Human Collection

This was the first piece the sculptor made in ‘The Only Human’ collection and I am writing about it last as we round-up this collection of work. At the moment a few of this collection are on display in London, until the end of August. (link)

If you have spent time within a different culture then you’ll know how sometimes somethings can seem baffling, unusual and can challenge your way of thinking. Alternatively there are experiences which can be preferable or that you may want to adopt. Either way a new or different culture can open us up to a new ways of seeing.

When I was younger I remember my Father, who is a teacher, doing a school assembly on the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant , it cleverly demonstrates how a person can have one way of seeing something very differently to another and it affecting their interpretation of that idea. Culture can be very much like that.

I was fortunate to spend time in Japan at the age of 18 which opened my eyes to sights, sounds, smells and tastes that were totally new to me. My first image of a lady walking a cat on a lead, wearing what looked like a surgical mask over her face was definitely a diary entry. Green tea that tasted bitter, bland tofu and miso fish was a first meal that made me wonder if I would survive my 6 months there, such a lover of food am I. This was also back in the days before we had any of these food flavours and products available in the UK. Now matcha lattes and ramen bowls are all on trend. My eldest even requested sushi for one of his school lunches! Japanese food in lots of small little bowls and chop sticks whilst siting on the floor was certainly something I fell in love with, along with the house design and contemplation of nature and tranquility.

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‘Madame Butterfly’ Calligraphy collection

On Saturday evening we went to see the Opera, Madame Butterfly, a Christmas gift from my parents.  My husband had already seen it before in Cairo which had inspired him to make the sculpture above, titled after the opera and a very different style and material to ‘Defender’. The Alhambra opera used shadows in the performance at at the weekend to depict some of the scenes. So I loved the connection between the set design and this piece.

The Japanese culture could be summed up in two words, honour and respect and this is very much what fuels the tragic ending of the opera. Japanese design and living is about capturing the beauty then discarding the rest.  ‘Madame Butterfly’, the sculpture from the Calligraphy collection (also a Japanese art form) nods to this etiquette in that it is displaying only what is essential in exploring outline rather than playing with form.

In contrast to ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Defender’ is all mass and form. It is interesting how seeing something from a different angle can influence how we look at something. Writer, Cherry Smyth when first viewing this piece describes; “In ‘Defender’ (2016) the buffed, open arms of the upright, stocky animal –human hybrid end in what could be black hooves. It tilts its head as if ready to take on anything that comes, and its stolid black and yellow torso is built to impress. For Shendi, the figure represents the ‘defender we all need from time to time.’ It could also suggest the super-ripped gym bodies we increasingly seek, that render the limbs less agile and flexible for the sake of a pose of durability.”

The sculptor didn’t make ‘Defender’ with Egypt in mind, but it was a consideration for placing in an outdoor area in Cairo at one point. The idea of needing a defender is fitting for Egypt and the contrast between these two sculptures is very much like the Japanese and Egyptian culture.

My next big culture experience was at 21 in Egypt, I cried at the airport in Cairo not wanting to leave at the end of my travels. This was way before I was to meet my own Egyptian Sculptor. Funny how fate intervenes. My heart planted a root unbeknown to me. But travelling for a few weeks through a country is not the same as being immersed in one. Although I have since been back several times and am now married to an Egyptian. Egypt is a complex one and certainly less ordered, neat and tidy than the Japanese. It’s almost antithetical in every way.

CLASH is an Egyptian film set in Cairo during the 2013 protests. It portrays the claustrophobic intimacy of a police vehicle where the viewer witnesses the intense heat, no water and over crowded conditions of the van. In many ways it parallels the country as a whole. The individuals in the van display kindness and anger within seconds. Emotions flare up in all directions and we see the injustice, senseless behaviour that is a country at war with itself as so are the people it is made up of. Perhaps, ‘Defender’ is for those moments like in the van, breaking down barriers, pushing past the intensity of the stiffling experience and the personalities which almost smother each other.

It’s hard to sum up Egypt in two words and that really says it all. It is a multitude of attacks on all the senses. Yet the exotic history, heat, passion and flare all give it a romanticism that entices you in. There is a saying once you have tasted the waters of the Nile you have to go back. Maybe, that is for the ‘foreigner’ but for the Egyptian, the corruption and disorder and preference for the outsider make it a very different reality.

Just like with these art works I could not choose which culture I prefer over the other. They both appeal to different sides of me. Perhaps two parts that reside in all of us. We can often choose to dig in our heels and defend what we first think to be our opinion about things. It’s often a good idea to check our thinking and question why we have that point of view.

Only then can we understand others but, not only that, we can understand ourselves.

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‘Defender’ side angle