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.
I thought that following my perhaps, sorrowful sounding poem, in my last post; I should qualify that I don’t in anyway regret the decision to stop rowing. I had a fleeting thought where I wondered why I didn’t follow through with doing the PGCE course at Cambridge, from where I could have followed through with rowing after my degree more easily than rowing out of London but I wouldn’t be where I am now if that had happened. Fate. My parents are both teachers and coincidently both ‘the sculptor’s’ parents were. I feel there is something about education which is in our blood, but both myself and my two siblings have probably intentionally avoided it. Which is why I probably didn’t go through with the PGCE course!
So my relationship with my boys education is quite impassioned. After going to parents evening the other week it is apparent that both boys are naturally creative. I guess it’s in the genes. As much as I am impressed by both their individual teachers and the creativity that has been covered. I wish for them a more creative led education system. I am not sure this current system will display the bright sparks they are. But does that really matter?
Part of me wishes that I had the energy, resources and space to home school them. So that learning could be child-creative led. In today’s world I am not sure there is such a need to be solely focused on Maths and English and the level for a 6 year old seems absurd. I am not sure I could answer some of the SAT’s questions on the Key stage one paper. Yet they also do interesting topic work but I am not sure what that teachers them per say.
Education should not be about ticking boxes or getting grades. It should be about learning, exciting and encouraging learning as a life long process. My six year old’s teacher said that, ‘you can tell he sees drawing as work’. However, if you ask him what he likes at school he will say, “Art” and what he doesn’t like is “working”. Surely all learning needs to be seen as fun for as long as possible. If sitting a six year old down for fractions and finding a verb in a sentence is hard work it leave little for when they are 16 surely.
I also think achievement in school does not necessarily correlate with life achievement or career achievement. It is difficult to compare my husband’s education, he was schooled in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Fate. His education really started when he was at university in Cairo, which was free but that’s a whole other issue. So I could rant on but instead will introduce this new collection. The Family Portrait, it is one of a set which is a smaller sized collection which I will try and cover over the next few weeks.
It feels a while since I have written but the past few weeks have been a detoxification of so much that I haven’t had the desire to sit and write so much. I had even prepared much of this post to quickly slip a post in in anticipation of lack of time to write.
For me, this is one of the best pieces of my husband’s work. It is more museum worthy than public art, most of the other work is ‘willing to grow’. This could be outside if cast in bronze but I do think this is one for a large indoor space. Yes, it is sinister, disturbing, intriguing… but in today’s modern contemporary art world where almost anything goes, sometimes you have to make a statement that will make the viewer stop. Look. Think.
The journey of this piece started last year and has continued to be one of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ . It was selected for the Hot one hundred so was in exhibition in London when it got pre-selected for the Threadneedle prize, which we were very excited about. So, we had a little bit of logistics and negotiation to get it from A to B. Having applied for the Threadneedle for the last two years and not been successful we were feeling fairly hopeful that this was a good sign. The piece seemed to fit the requirements, for example; “Work that possesses a life force of its own… work that has ‘that something’ which stops the viewer in their tracks.” Tim Shaw. Having got it to the Mall galleries and putting it amongst the other pre selected work my husband was still pretty optimistic about the next stage. So we waited for the Thursday announcement. On the Wednesday my husband got a call from them and though it could only be good news. It wasn’t. The reason for the early call was because it did need to be collected and the collection days were the same as the rather large cycle event happening in the London on the same day, could he go earlier to collect it. Needless to say, living so far away from London we couldn’t really go any other day and we also needed to drop some other work off at the Cork street gallery (just round the corner). So, my husband and his man with a van headed into London to the Mall galleries and Cork Street, to deliver work and to collect a rather hefty piece of art, at the same time as some 16,500 cyclist needed the very same road. I printed out maps of the gallery and the cycle routes, the roads which were closed and the roads which would be restricted. I didn’t think it looked possible.However, there was not a lot of choice off they went. I was rather expecting a call to say they hadn’t been able to get it.
Here is what happened; after successfully managing to deliver work at The Cork Street Gallery at 10am (not quite sure how they got there in such good time!) they circled around and realised they just couldn’t get the van to the entrance of the Mall Gallery. Pulling into a lay-by as the driver needed to go to the toilet, on finding a toilet my husband realised that they could see the entrance of the Mall gallery. They decided to walk to it to see how far it was but rather than being able to go straight across the road they were diverted because of the preparations for the crowds supporting the cyclists. On getting to the gallery the driver insisted that as they were there they ‘may as well’ carry the piece back. The images here do not show the glass box which my husband decided to exhibit it in. So, each carrying an edge of the box they walked the mile back to the van. Crowds now gathering, had to shift quickly once they realised two men were carry a glass box and not in fact just pushing their way through. Apparently, they got comments about ‘where the camera was’. I am not sure whether they did that before or after the actual ‘Toy’ which must have then caused another commotion, as though two art thieves were stealing in broad daylight. One way to advertise your work. They did it, they got the piece out but unfortunately not in the shortlisted Threadneedle.
The piece speaks about the 21st century, the society that we live in. It is representing the idea that you work hard and are not going anywhere, like a rocking horse. However long it rocks, it is simply moving back and forth, not moving forward. The black for the skeleton (it is not a real skeleton) shows that we are in a time when petrol has become more important than human life. As for the horse-tail, (it is real horse hair) this represents the way society keeps pushing you constantly to look after your health, going to the gym, good diet etc etc, and this is a similar technique for a horse race. It seems the horse that has constantly been looked after, good diet, great exercise goes to the race and wins makes the owner very rich. Hence the title, ‘The Toy’ for this concept presents us as having become a toy to our boss, to our society, to our media and to our routine, played with and somehow we believe that this is the normal life that we are supposed to have. People work 9 till 5, six days a week, sleep eight hours, have three-course meal, wish to live longer and will end up being in a nursing home, sitting down on a chair rocking thinking that you lived the life in full. This is an observation of the world through my husband’s art. When words can’t describe what he sees.
All a bit gory in the title, but then this expression summed up the day. It started two days ago when I came home in the middle of the day and was transferring my sleeping toddler from car to house. As I made my way up the stairs I got a little spooked to see a tall figure in the kitchen out of the corner of my eye. A full size skeleton had landed. For the last couple of days the kitchen and back yard have been the workshop. So we have had body parts lying around on the worktop and kitchen table. It is not a real human I must make clear, we have not gone as far as Damien Hirst. However, it may be a bit religiously controversial but that sparks debate.
I am hesitant about putting up sketches, although it shows the working process. The sketch is the first stage, the next stage is sprawled around our house making it rather cold as the back door is open due to the drilling that has been going on. When I told my eldest son what had happened today he immediately sobbed, a mixture of empathy and worry I think. His tears were heartfelt. So this is the blood addition, whilst drilling some of the parts together, I am not sure how the drill went through the skeletal sculpture bone into my husband’s hand, Ouch! but it did. I personally thought it looked like it had just touched the bone but he merely brushed it off as the first layer of skin (think we are talking more like subcutaneous layer actually). So in true Egyptian style he simply superglued it together. Rather fortunate I just happened to buy some at the beginning of the week to glue back together a wooden frame in the boy’s room which I have been meaning to do for months.
So the Sculptor is sore but still drilling away. So what has the sweat got to do with it? All this hard work, this piece had been the most physically exerting, and challenging. It made me think about how we define hard work. In the Uk we are constantly on a treadmill, we seem to think that if we have ‘sweated’ hard for something then we are more deserving of it. Although people talk about work life balance, I don’t see it. The majority of people live to work.
The question of what art is also arose. My husband pointed out that the majority of his work was purely from the imagination in his head, whilst this piece is the ‘idea’, putting something that already exists in a new way. People often comment about conceptual art that, ‘they could do it’. It is ideas and concept that create debate. Of course, in my own head I am now even more concerned about the sparks that may fly about this piece. However, there is an important message behind this work.
This image below was taken earlier, I have just been called through to see the finished body on the kitchen table. 14 hours later and 72 pieces assembled. A lot of blood, sweat and tears for one day.