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.

The Great White Horse

Drawings, Making, Relationships

When I was in primary school, year two (although it wasn’t called that back then) we did some kind of medieval project and made wish bags. We had to write what we wished for and then seal them in these fabric bags. I wrote ‘horse’. I am not sure why, it is one of a few memories I have from being an infant, yet I didn’t go horse riding or really show any interest in horses I don’t think. Maybe, it was the era of ‘my little pony’- I don’t know. Not long before I had my own children boys I booked myself a lesson and even that memory seems very hazy but I was obviously allergic. When the boys were small I took them on a horse trek and walking beside them wasn’t the best idea, my eyes were itchy, I couldn’t stop sneezing. However, there is something about the horse that still appeals to me.

Meanwhile, over in Egypt my husband was growing up surrounded by animals and horses, mainly because of his grandfather. So riding was a past time of his. In many of the villages around his childhood home wedding celebrations would include a dancing horse. Not sure if the horses danced because of the rhythm of the music or they were trained to, either way, it was the sculptor’s favourite thing to watch.

The first lockdown this year resulted in the sculptor producing a collection of drawings, mainly of animals and amphibians. In this second lockdown the sculptor has been drawing horses. This is the story which inspired the collection.

Whilst at University the sculptor was living with other students, one was an interior designer. He asked one day if my husband would like to go horse riding with him. The sculptor promptly said yes and was instructed that they would be riding near to the pyramids at about four in the morning. The sculptor found this a strange time due to the darkness so asked why. His friend told him that there were some magnificent horses, not allowed out in public for the tourists to ride but kept in the stables.

The sculptor went with the interior designer to a very unusual place near the pyramids in the early hours before the dawn. They were the only people awake. The friend knocked on a seemingly random door. An old man opened, greeted the friend with familiarity saying, “the same horses”? The friend replied, “yes”.

After a short walk, a stable door was opened and there was the giant white horse, clearly not of an Arab bloodline. My husband had never seen something that large in his life. He fell in love immediately with grand horses. Not interested in speed but the idea of a creature so powerful with solid muscles cutting through the air with beauty and holding a dynamic gracefulness- perhaps this is the point of view of the sculptor. Always looking at shape and form.

The sculptor insisted on riding this grand horse despite it being the one for his friend. He observed his friend’s disappointment. The stable man stated that he wouldn’t be able to handle him and that the friend was used to riding him. As soon as my husband mounted the horse’s back, he reared up and tipped him off. It then took him a second or two from the shock and everyone laughing around him, for him to realise what had happened. He got up and got straight back on. Gently touching the mane he slowly built up speed upon the horse. Maybe the horse had wanted to send him a message that the horse was the one in control.

In the darkness of the night some how the desert was lit up by the stars, or the sparks from the friends horse running so fast ahead on the the stony ground. The great white horse got faster until it was as though the sculptor was no longer riding a horse. The horse was a soft gentle rocking chair. The sculptor was so confident as the cold breeze hit his face from the speed and yet he felt on top of a feather. At this point his hands let go, stretching out to his sides. For a brief moment he believed he was no longer on earth. Perhaps, floating between land and sky. He felt free.

Maybe the horse experienced it too. The horse and sculptor were one. It was an experience he will never forget.

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.

Husband

Connections, Egyptian, Relationships

Two years ago I wrote about ‘The date’ -(read to find out more about how we met). April 12th our anniversary. Today we have been married 13 years. However, I don’t know whether this date is as significant as the day we met which was in May, sixteen years ago. Sixteen years feels more significant than thirteen. It is crazy to think it is sixteen years since we met, part of me feels only a bit older than that! I don’t know if it is because I married an artist or an Egyptian but that makes no two days the same. I always thought you needed to find someone who was like you, your tribe. That there was some notion of finding another person and finding yourself. Instead I found someone who was the complete opposite of me in most things but he makes me laugh, at life, at myself and together. The verb of husband means to conserve resources and use them frugally which is exactly the opposite of what the sculptor does! The word ‘husband’ comes old norse for house dweller. In fact we bought our house just slightly before we got married so we did become house dwellers around the same time we became husband and wife so I suppose he became my husband thirteen years ago.

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” 

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

the kiss sold

‘The Kiss’ 2013 by Sam Shendi. 

 

Love is not the easiest journey and ours has its struggles and tests along the way. I have realised marriage is mostly a discovery of yourself rather than of the other person. So staring into each others eyes isn’t going to get you anywhere but having a direction forward is probably a better outlook.

Often as adults we are wounded. Wounded either by others or by ourselves. We can quite easily slip into a  daydream of remaining that way and thereby allowing past behaviours to continue. I have found that being with someone who is candid and open about his thoughts and feelings has helped me to unravel my own, slowly.

I think growing up I always believed in the idea that there would be ‘one’ but society, life, the current world we live in makes you question that idea. I was always looking for love. It definitely felt like we were destined to be. He is my guiding light.

 

sam profile

Lady of the Lake (painting, poetry & now sculpture)

collections, Conceptual

I had the very liberating experience of having 33 centimetres of hair chopped off  this week which makes me feel so incredibly lighter. We plaited the hair into two plaits and did a big chop. So the plaits looked like Mermaid tails or a dead animal, depending on how you want to look at it. No longer am I, Rapunzel weighed down by my hair. I think my vision of long hair was of a lady in water with long hair flowing behind her, Ophelia like? or maybe Bond girl. However, it is not actually a reality. Mine was just a messy mop, difficult to wash and because I have thick hair it just looked heavy, hippie-like or hairy wilder-beast, either way it wasn’t looking good.

 

This sculpture, aptly titled ‘Lady of the Lake” was my planned post for this week but with bank holiday, jobs in the house and a hair cut, time has been limited and so has thinking time. However, as wished for, the hair chop gave me inspiration as I sat looking at myself in the mirror in the hairdresser’s chair. An odd thing to stare at your reflection. I don’t often look at myself in the mirror, not in the habit of applying make-up. Although, ironically my new bob inspired me to purchase some mascara for the first time in probably about 5 years.

So, reflecting on the idea of hair and the mirror and the lady of the lake made me think about the links to the Lady of Shalott  painting by John William Waterhouse.

The painting was inspired by a scene in Tennyson’s poem of the plight of a young woman forbidden to look directly at reality or the outside world and doomed only to view the world through a mirror. The red fiery colour of the hair is the same in both painting and sculpture, the purples in the water and the tapestry on the painting also represented on the sculpture and the black almost wheel like gestures on the sculpture mirror the boat in the painting. The movement of the paint on this sculpture is different from on the other sculptures as though it has literally risen from under the water, so the paint lines are wavy like waves or water movement. It could be a creature from the deep, an organic water form. Again the wavy lines link to the weave of the tapestry of the lady of shallot.

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1809 – 1892

The Lady of Shalott lives in an island castle in a river which flows to Camelot, during the days of King Arthur. The Arthurian links also to the Lady of Lake. The Lady of the Lake is a sorceress and the body of medieval literature and legend about Great Britain. So tradition tells, the Lady of the Lake was the foster-mother of Sir Lancelot and raised him beneath the murky waters of her Lake.

I was almost lady of the lake today as we had the toilet disconnected and despite having turned the stop tap off we still had running water from behind the toilet which then started dripping from the bathroom down through the floor and ceiling below through spot light into the hallway. So buckets in the bathroom and buckets in the hallway as this mornings adventure. Fortunately the carpets are not being fitted until next week so the flooring is all still rough and ready and able to handle a good soaking. We are still in so much chaos a little bit more just added to the drama. My husband had rushed home to help and see if he could find another stop-tap or some solution to the problem. Our work man told him I had been a drama queen. When I called out that he was a little fibber he had to stop his laughing as he waddled down the stairs with toilet in his arms still dripping from his uncontrollable shaking. Knowing full well he had been the one panicking. I don’t think he had predicited my reaction.

Leaking stopped. I won’t be submerged in murky waters this weekend (may not have a toilet but here’s hoping). We will leave the lady of the lake to poems, paintings and now sculpture.

 

Getting back into a routine and flow

Colour, Connections, Public Art

Apparently it is 2 months since I last posted and I have been very aware of that fact but I just haven’t been able to sit down and write. It was the summer months with the boys off school and other things seem to have taken over in my to-do list. So I have slowly been getting back into my routine but still need to be a bit more productive when it comes to blogging! I have been a little too preoccupied with Instagram which I have just discovered, although haven’t completely got my head around it yet. I have also done lots of interesting reading. In one book which I will relate to more in my next post (see getting a bit organised!) the chapter opening is entitled, ‘Flow. The Genius of Routine. Routine , in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition -W.H. Auden.  Although, generally my husband I would describe is not quite a creature of habit as am I but when it comes to the studio he definitely is in a routine and it pays off. Over the summer the following pieces went to new homes:

Defeated Butterflies, in his new home in Johannesburg

‘The Wedding Dress’ in her new home in Johannesburg

 

 

‘The King and Queen’, in their new home in SouthSea

‘Witnesses’ in the entrance to the Tennis Club in South-sea

Press Article in South Africa

 

Heads together

Connections, Relationships, Soul searching

heads-and-sculptor

‘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.”

sketch

Sketch by Sam Shendi

mr-blue

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.

Example of minimising with meaning

collections, Colour, Conceptual, Connections, Making

After posting my last blog entry I realised I had left out a really important image of a piece which sums up the  ‘Less is more idea’. So to follow on from Friday’s post:

thinker

‘Thinker’ (2007)

When asked to choose a favourite piece the sculptor often  settles for this piece; inspired by two of his favourite artists Rodin and Mondrian. After making this piece he realised he was influenced by both artists and the architecture of the 60’s. “The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and joinery are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”

I think these words echo truth concerning this sculpture and many of the others, “no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”

This piece is entitled ‘The Thinker’, harps back to the old masters but brings a unique contemporary style for today. It combines the fascination of the piece, ‘The Thinker’ by Rodin and the abstractions of Mondrian.

Ad Reinhart remarked, “The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more. The eye is a menace to clear sight. The laying bare of oneself is obscene. Art begins with the getting rid of nature.
The use of colour is with purpose, the bright yellow represents the spark of an idea, a light bulb moment enhancing the idea of ‘The Thinker’. So whilst this piece strips back all the details of the human body, it still provokes thought, meaning and symbolism.

Less is More

Philosophy, Uncategorized

king-and-queen-4

‘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.

king-and-queen-5

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.

_DSC2858

‘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.

'The Bow'

‘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.

isolated

‘Isolated’ (2013)

Dedication

Uncategorized


In memory of those who risk their lives for others.

life-boat-1

‘Lifeboat’ 2016

life-boat-3

Dedicated to those real unsung heroes, men and woman who step out into the unknown to save another soul.lifeboat-2

No one can say with certainty what will happen to us in our life.

A Thousand clichés

Everyday is a gift

Live your life to the full

Live until you die

Don’t take life for granted

Be courageous to live:

honestly,

passionately

positively

Constantly improving

Being a child of the 80’s I remember the theme tune to a programme called Record breakers, ” Dedication is what you need.” If you want to be the best… There are so many definitions to the meaning and I have put a link on the word which goes into that idea.

The sculptor made this piece thinking of those who chose to step out into the unknown or even the known and save others. He had an experience on a boat as a child but the memory of it was brought back, seeing images of the boats with refugees.

My husband is dedicated in his practice. He lives and breathes to create.

I love this image below, it’s so different from the images above and visually shows us how sometimes it is good to get a different perspective on things.

“Sometimes it’s hard to just keep going but dedication is moving forward without giving up no matter what.”

lifeboat-4