These Hills we Climb

Colour, Connections, Soul searching

I am not quite sure how I dare use my adaptation of the title of Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration poem for this blog post (although I have very slightly changed it-does that make it ok??) I began writing this all the way back in January after she delivered her poem at the Inauguration. When the same week I discovered and realised that this sculpture my husband created at the end of last year (2020) almost looks like a three dimensional portrait of Amanda Gorman,with her Prada yellow coat and red headband, I couldn’t not make a post about the connection. Now April the poem is published in book form. So where did January, February and March go? I am not sure. It is odd to think that the slower our pace of life, the quicker time goes. (If you are a follower on Instagram I posted by poem about Time there).

And what hills we have been climbing, internally, nationally, globally, metaphorically and literally if you live in Yorkshire as we do. Certainly a time of almost forced contemplation and reflection. We need to though don’t we? There seems so much to contemplate yet simultaneously being aware that we simply have the moment. Stories of past and future simply being imaginative. These problems our imagination creates can be overcome.

It’s interesting to listen to some of Gorman’s poetry from a few years ago when her speech impediment was still audible. She has certainly I wouldn’t have been aware of it at all in her recitation of ‘The Hill we climb’, on the day. She spoke with confidence and assertion. Hearing her delivery of the poem, the poem itself with words chosen for alliteration, assonance and literary references to other poets sent me into a little spiral of self doubt. The same week when after almost forty years of pursing purpose, I had the realisation that poetry was my path. Though, I have the tendency to do something until I realise I can’t be the best at it then retreat back into my cancarian shell until I find another little track to go down. However, I think this time I have a willingness to stick at it just for joy. To keep finding joy in writing in some form or another as often as I can.

“And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect”

The poem is one of hope and a much needed sentiment as we march on into the rest of this year with lockdown gradually being lifted here in the UK. As much as I like solitude and isolation we have a natural desire for freedom and rightly so and it’s human nature to want to be together. To share experiences.

‘Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious’

The sculpture is titled, “Monument II’ from the folklore collection. A mixture of head busts and large scale standing pieces inspired by African and Egyptian folklore. What is appealing about each one of them is that from different angles they look like completely different sculptures. So below are the images of the sculpture rotated, each telling a different story. Most of the sculptures my husband creates tell a story and this one will always be for me the story of Amanda Gorman and what a story. She certainly inspires, seems like a bright light and represents the ability to accomplish dreams , to keep on reaching for those hills to climb.

Reflecting back and Looking ahead

Connections, History, Philosophy, Soul searching

As the natural world around us is literally frozen today as I write, this last day of 2020. It as though time is suspended. So many things in life were suspended this year. Waiting.

As we straddle one year to the next I feel increasingly aware that time is really inconsequential and that we mark time, create time for plans and accruements that we have no guarantee for.

This is no different from how life has been before we have been faced with a reality this year that has taught us to slow down, reflect, hibernate. Here in the north of England we are deep in winter snow which mirrors that intense desire to curl up.

The global situation may seem desperate, bleak but if we focus on what is in front, what is within then we can uncover hope. As seasons change so can we, and unfurl into spring. For now we really have nothing more than the moment.

Poem by Tamsin Shendi

African Collection (part I)

collections, Colour, Connections, Egyptian, History, Steel

The African Collection is a new body of work which has layers of shapes and meaning. These works follow on from ‘The paper cut collection’, and a progression from a piece which my husband originally made in wood, like a prototype or maquette over ten years ago. I love this style. I love this collection. They are modern and contemporary yet at the same time referencing history. Egyptian heritage is very different from African History and yet Egypt sits within the African continent and the Ancient Egyptians themselves were influenced from central Africa, particularly art. Recently my husband was told that he probably descended from Sudan. The clue is in the name, there is a town in Sudan called Shendi. These pieces are referencing traditional African art styles, you can feel it from the vibrant colours and markings and the cut out shapes as well as the forms. African art also inspired Picasso and other artists of history so it links an Art History journey. As each sculpture has so many images I am just adding three pieces here, Afro IV above and Warrior I and Warrior II below.

The colours, shapes, patterns and angles create almost different sculptures depending where you view it. These layers of meaning can be interpreted as perspectives. When we are told stories it is often from only one viewpoint and this colours our understanding. It affects our knowledge, our history, our legacy. We are currently all being told stories from one perspective.

Creating a piece of art work which changes depending on our viewpoint can challenge us into considering this within life. When we look at something, we need to consider how we are seeing it and the filters that we put up or bring up which influences our ability to understand. Filters being, our own cultural upbringing, conditioning, experiences and so on. Our life experiences shape us, causing us perhaps to put some of our authentic nature into the shadows. What I also love about this style of work is the shadows they create. These pieces are creative visual storytelling. They evoke a juxtaposed playfulness and seriousness which perhaps embodies the African spirit.

Victoria, Anne and Matilda

collections, Colour, Connections

September is gone and October arrived and with it so many butterflies. Victoria and Anne and Matilda are sat round the table doing free flowing writing exercises, like the Bronte sisters did. I only know that because last week I went to a poetry workshop in Haworth. Lead by the poet Clare Shaw with her beautifully broad Lancashire accent who poetically spoke of Emily, Anna and Charlotte as though we were there with them. Names. Interesting how we name things and they become so. For these sculptural cocoons my husband named them old Queens of England. Read into this whatever you like; history, identity, nationality, royal family.

The philosophy of these pieces is based upon something the famous sculptor Michelangelo is quoted for, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. As though there is a life form within the material being manitpulated, asking for release,  finding a way for freedom from the restraints within the cocoon of medium. My husband’s sculptural journey is often  exploring ‘within’,looking at keeping that statue trapped. Not allowing the ‘breaking free’ process to occur and focusing on the development of the chrysalis. As the sculptor, I suppose this is his licence, to keep it under wraps.  A butterfly just tapped on the window, as I write which gives me a sign I am on the right track.

My interest is in the naming. The famous sculpture of Michelangelo is ‘David’. When we view the sculpture ‘David’ we see a carved figure of a human form. It is unlike earlier Renaissance depictions of ‘David’, the biblical hero standing over Goliath. Michelangelo’s pose is before the battle actually takes place. Over time sculptural practice changes and develops with shifts in materials, philosophy, ideas, the things that inform the world around us. As much as we can still carve materials into almost exact replicas of things, there has to be an evolution to creativity. My husband is making reference to the title of ‘David’ by naming the art work female names in the same way. This creates a story around the sculpture and asks the viewer to question the form. It  suggests that the figure is within the form but additional addresses the idea of what the human form actually is and to think of the body as simply a vessel, to look beyond shape. This concept is prevalent in much of my husband’s work. He is exploring the idea that we are so much more than our bodies  but congruently, sculpturally, this collection is all about form, shape, mass, volume.

Almost at the same time as this collection was completed my husband won a project  which we currently have to keep ‘under wraps’.  A project which has meant a trip to London yesterday for the sculptor. The link between the titles of these sculptures and the up and coming project is a little bit like my constant observation of butterflies. All signs and symbols that everything is unfolding as it should.

 

The Metamorphosis Collection

From Cocoon to Chrysalis. The Metamorphosis Collection

collections, Colour, Connections, Soul searching

Unintentionally I took a break from blogging in August. It strikes me that summer is a time for growth. For, the children physically, perhaps, for adults mentally. For me this summer I felt a strong need to work on self-development. I had heard that changes can happen when you turn the glorious age of 40, that shifts occur as though you are entering a new phase. I have a belief that things will fall into place for me within this decade. I didn’t realise it would be so marked.

I’ve also made a connection that my husband’s sculptural journey somehow mirrors my own life journey. So, when the boys were younger there was a heavy focus on ‘Mother and Child pieces‘, The ‘Giant collection’ when perhaps I was working through some post-natal shifts. The ‘Calligraphy collection’ as I started to outline my blog and with this latest collection during the summer months lots of links.

The metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly is a fascinating one and interestingly the boys love finding caterpillars and I love photographing butterflies. I think we all like seeing the positive result of change. This summer I have had time to reflect and do some work on my self, some self-realisation and feel, almost as if I am transitioning from a cocoon to the chrysalis. Meanwhile, the sculptor has been carving away at the ‘Metamorphosis collection’.

Matilda

‘Matilda’. The ‘Metapmorphis Collection’ by Sam Shendi

“Self-realisation is a strange term. You don’t actually realise your self.

If anything, you go away. The caterpillar enters a cocoon of meditation: A butterfly emerges, metamorphosis.” Frederick Lindemann

The Story begins with a very hungry caterpillar. The boys loved this book when they were little. I am totally that very hungry caterpillar and this is one of the aspects I am trying to evolve from! The next stage is spinning itself into a cocoon and within the protective casing radical transforms occurs. The Chrysalis is not a resting stage, a lot is happening. I think I am in that stage still and not yet quite the butterfly. It isn’t just about an external transformation, although I am working on that too. Trying to focus on active and healthy choices. It is the changes from within, re-working old habits, extending and expanding new thoughts and ideas. Shedding the layers physically and peeling away at the onion of our psychology.

“And so artistic creation is the metamorphosis of the external physical aspects of a thing into a self-sustaining spiritual reality.” Hans Hofmann

Victoria

“Victoria” from the ‘Metamorphosis Collection’. Sam Shendi 2019

I had some very liberating moments this summer and conversely some real trigger moments where I had some strong negative physical reactions to things which were happening. It is so important to navigate those trigger moments to understand what is happening in the sub-conscious and learning from them. To develop personal growth we need to acknowledge what we haven’t fully been willing to step into and where we are able to overcome those feelings. Like the caterpillar it is important to sacrifice who you are right now in order to see who you can become.

“I’d rather be this walking metamorphosis

than having that old formed opinion about everything.”  Raul Seixas

Anne

‘Anne’ part of the ‘Metamorphosis collection’. Sam Shendi 2019.

The butterfly isn’t necessarily the end result, just the start of the journey. One of discovery. Creativity. Exploration. Shapes of cocoons vary, yet there is something universally simplistic and beautiful about them. All the more intricate work happening within. As humans we have a tendency to focus on our exterior, our outer shell and leave our inner being under nourished. The work that goes on within us is transformative and the only real change we can make begins with ourselves.

I’ll write more about the sculptural concepts next time!

“It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: 

all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.” Henry Miller

 

Making your mark

collections, Colour, Connections, Egyptian, Exhibitions, Making
The Braille Collection by Sam Shendi. Collectively looking like an alphabet system

To quote Mark Twain, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” has resonated with me for a number of years, firstly because my husband so clearly knows his own purpose and what he finds joy in doing but secondly because I have been very much the opposite of that. Like my shellfish star sign, I scuttle one way then retreat into my shell and then shuffle along in another direction. I have had so many interests over the years that I describe myself as ‘jack of all trades master of none’.

However, on Friday 12th July this year, my mother and I gracefully stumbled upon an exhibition at the British Library. In London, for a weekend away (my first without the boys in over 7 years I might add again) we realised neither of us had been to this tower of treasures before.

‘Writing: Making your Mark’ runs only for a few more weeks and it was a fortuitous turn that led us there. Delightfully, without children I was able to read every display case and successfully answered one of the little quizzes you could test yourself with about where types of writing originated from.

Not only have I struggled with a lack of direction in what I like to do I also need to overcome perfectionism. It is a hinderance. The desire to do things right overtakes the joy of an act. Yet somehow I have managed to keep this blog running for nine years despite my pitfalls in grammar and sentence construction.

It dawned on me in the dark depths of the British library that I have always been writing. Diaries, Journals, poetry, school work, blogging. I have dabbled in Russian, French, Japanese and now Arabic. Although, I am definitely not a linguist the idea of words, calligraphy and the art of writing is definitely something that I have a passion about. I wondered then from the belly of the building of books whether I had finally had that day. The second day that Twain deems an important one. I am declaring it almost so, for accountability perhaps. Fear that incase in a couple of months the idea of being a sports psychologist rears it’s competitive head or the family teacher trait takes a triumphant turn.

Ebony I

Writing features in the sculptors work in his Calligraphy collection and in one of his latest collection ‘Braille Branches’. This collection is one to raise awareness of environmental issues whilst simultaneously connecting with the visually impaired. The sculptures have different textures, surfaces and forms that lend themselves to touch and feel. The flat surface has raised patterns which allow the works to have a written message. When I was in the writing exhibition the section on Braille described it as tactile writing, patterns of dots or cells which can be used to represent letters, numbers and punctuation.

Ebony II
Ebony III

Something about these pieces looks ancient and futuristic combined, like modern tablets on ancient structures or alien-like forms with a primordial message. “Throughout history, we have engaged with writing in countless ways, using a variety of tools and materials. Writing and technology, have often developed hand in hand, inspiring and influencing one another. For thousands of years people have used writing to make their mark in a multitude of ways.” (Exhibition guide)

Today we use screens, express with emoji’s, communicate by text and yet I was thrilled to receive a beautiful fountain pen for my birthday halted in my endeavours to begin as I need ink! What will the future hold for the way we write, create, express and make our mark on the world. Thanks to Mark Twain I am eager to find out why and what happens next….

Yin & Yang is life

Connections, Exhibitions, Relationships

Life isn’t always black and white. It’s technicolour, pastel, vibrant, dull, shades of grey.

Yin and Yang is the ancient chinese philosophy of dualism. Symbolising how opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent with each other.

Rather than opposing one another two different things can work in harmony. Shadow can not exist without light. The sculptor and I, are defiantly Yin and Yang and this has taught me a great deal. Living, working and raising two children with someone who is very different is extremely interesting. It has had its challenges but the laughter far aways those and for the boys hugely beneficial.

As individuals we all meet the darkness, dip into negative thoughts, doubts and fears and yet we also have days when we think we have wings and can fly. The beauty of life is riding those highs and lows and understanding without one we wouldn’t have the other. Important to master though, is the ability to reduce the time in those miserable moments to just moments rather than days and months and years. Finding the right balance.

Yin and Yang by Sam Shendi 2019

Despite all our differences; culture, religion, language, sex, political view point, we all share essential human emotions. This is what make us human. This is ultimately the main theme of my husband’s work. To enable us to understand our shared humanity. We shouldn’t need to define ourselves with labels, groups, with what makes us the same as or identify as being ‘not the same’ as someone else.

We are all individuals, unique and yet we are all one. Duality and unity. Yin and Yang. I love how when these two sculptures face each other it is almost heart shaped. When we accept others for who they are and we can accept ourselves we would be congruence with the true nature of humanity.

This pair have been in at an Artiq exhibition in London for the past 10 days. As I write the sculptor is on the way to collect them to bring them back to the studio and also deliver a piece for the Royal British Society of Sculptor’s summer exhibition. It’s all balance.

Liverpool Plinth Winner 2019

Awards, Colour, Connections, Exhibitions, History, Public Art
Split Decision outside the church

Today is summer solstice, the longest day of the year which gives me extra time to get this written. Well, obviously not really but I am trying to use the daylight and sunshine to my advantage.

Another year which is speeding by with its struggles but also with success. This time last week ‘Split Decision’ was unveiled as the winner of the Liverpool Plinth competition, positioned on a plinth outside the Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas. The sculptor entered three pieces into the competition made possible by Dot-art and Liverpool BID company. It wasn’t a commission. This piece was made 2 years ago and fortuitously hadn’t been exhibited anywhere before. We assumed he hadn’t won the competition or even been shortlisted because, back in May we still hadn’t heard anything . However, there had been a little delay in the announcement and so we were double thrilled to find out that he had won it. 

Last Friday, the rain just about held off and the sculptor enjoyed a fantastic day in Liverpool with important people and press. He kept phoning me with updates. I love the photo below where he is being interviewed and is beaming from ear to ear.

 

It feels a pinnacle of the journey so far, to be on a public plinth for a year, gaining publicity and exposure. It has been fascinating reading the initial public reaction, my first response was of anger at some of the comments but the sculptor is at a point in his career where he understands that art will provoke both positive and negative feedback, both are valid. The fact that it is creating conversation, for him, is the benefit and what he is looking for.

 

content of plaque on the wall below

I am so proud and can’t wait to take the boys to see it over the summer holidays. It felt very serendipitous to me that this first very public event was in Liverpool. My father was born there and as a family we have supported Liverpool’s football team for decades. There felt a strong link and connection.

So if you are in the north of England and passing by Liverpool, take a trip round the one way system that almost made my husband late for his own event!

The sculpture is facing out towards the famous water front. You can’t miss it.

Photos taken by Andy Garrett

Full video : What is imagination?

Connections, Philosophy, Publications

 

I feel like I have heard the question, ‘What is imagination?’ echo around my head and in my kitchen for the whole of this year. It is the same video as I posted a few weeks ago with the addition of the second half about the sculptor’s imagination. So do keep watching until the end. I think it is quite a good, inspirational, informative, educational little video delving into the working of an artistic mind.

Let me know what you think.

& -the lessons I have learnt this month.

Colour, Connections, Making, Steel

&1

‘Ampersand’ 2019. Sam Shendi

My husband was laughing that everyone would know I was poorly the other week because I posted about it on Instagram. Well now even more people will know because I am writing about it on WordPress. However, I have only a few followers so it is not as though thousands of people will know. What is interesting though is that my post had a few more likes and I am aware that the more you divulge about yourself or share yourself, the more likely you are to increase your followers. This is where I struggle because although I would like more readership and followers on some level. I am so introverted that the idea of posting images of myself of  doing stories where I am in them feels totally against my natural inclination.

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The reason I posted about being poorly was that it timely coincided with the sculptors evening photoshoot. Sods Law. I was literally bedridden with a fever and sore throat whilst the boys bounced around in the attic space, which we converted last year. They sounded like a herd of elephants. So I spent time being still and overcoming frustration on several levels. However, the positive is that we have more images to use for social media and galleries now.

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I look back and wonder if I almost brought about my own illness by worrying whether I would still be able to run next month. It is often so difficult to be content with what is happening to us in the present moment but it is the most important time to lean into the situation and learn. So my stillness sparked off doing some meditation which I have done off and on before but never with a regularity, which I was able to do being in bed. I realise now that as much as it is good to move and energise yourself, it is also as important to balance that with stillness. Stillness in a productive way.

&

The more I read and learn, ‘Fear is being in a state, ‘not of right mind’. I have no reason to fear the future. Whether I will run or not, whether x,z,z will happen or not.  Fearing the future and worrying only prevents us from focusing on the present and actually makes us suffer twice or once unnecessarily. When you start to understand your own mind, you understand the world. The world is simply what you believe it to be.

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On a completely different subject my husband taught me a knew word when he introduced me to ‘ampersand’. It is quite amusing that he told me it, my husband’s English has improved over the years but I sometimes have to give him spellings or slightly adjust his pronunciation of words. Sometimes I wait a while because I quite like the funny turns of phrase he comes out with like, ‘learning curve” used to be ‘learning curb’. Anyway, I learnt that the alphabet used to have an additional letter, did you know? x,y,x,&. When reciting the alphabet they would say ‘and per se’ so eventually this ran together to become ‘ampersand’.

The argument about never beginning a sentence with ‘and’ is because, to introduce a sentence with ‘and;’ expresses an incomplete thought but it is a stylistic preference rather than a grammatical rule. So you can use it for dramatic or forceful effect.

And so that is why I have punctuated each paragraph with the ampersand sign. So also not quite starting each sentence with and.

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so finally this piece is finished. Usually the sculptor is fairly fast with the process from inspiration to creation, to carving to painting but this big boy has had a longer journey. It was initially created last year and has taken some work moving it and then smoothing it and finally painting it and then having the final photoshoot.

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to give it some scale:

to give scle to &