This has been months in the making and just the first half of a short film about how my husband views imagination. The second half will go into more depth about how his imagination as an artist/sculptor works. Take a look and let us know what you think!
In this heat and sunlight everything seems more vibrant and lustrous. So the images of the Forbidden Sculptures of Nefertiti are here in colour. Last night there was a little coolness for a brief moment and I had sudden inspiration but forgot to write anything down and back again in the heat I can no longer remember what words. It is so hot in the showroom I can’t think. So words will be a limit here and the images say it all.
The story is in last weeks post.
Way back in December my husband said he was closing shop, closing studio for a few weeks. Time Off. Haha who was anyone kidding, the following day he was at the studio creating a new collection. This new collection is steeped in history, a concept, a story.
If you cast your imagination back, back to the time of ancient Egyptians. “The King’s Favourite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose” flourished in 1350 BC. Thutmose is thought to have been the official court sculptor of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten towards the end of his reign.
The sculptor of the royal house was commissioned to make works of decoration and public art including the well-known Nefertiti Bust (above)
However, the story goes that in the secret spaces of his own studio the sculptor set to work on his own private collection. Looking at the Queen everyday working on the portrait the sculptor fell in love with his muse. So inspired he started working prolifically on full figures presenting her in shapes never seen before, inspired by the beauty of the young queen he explored his own style.
Or perhaps the Queen and her sculptor were in love and she commissioned him in secret to work on something that freed him from the constraints of the public design. She wanted him to dedicate his practise to her.
Either way, these sculptures were hidden away in his studio and had no opportunity to be unveiled. To be revealed would make his love known or be too much evidence of love forbidden.
They remained unearthed in the studio like beings from another world. Beautiful creations dancing in the shadows.
The possibilities of this story, the discovery of several works in the remains of the sculptor’s studio and suggestions that it was the sculptor alone and not an apprentice that worked on those of Nefertiti suggests some sort of secret.
This story inspires the new collection.
Each piece would be positioned on an individual plinth and in two parallel rows of four. These stunning black and white photos below showcase the form, line and perfect finish of these works. Every time my husband finished new work, I think it is the best. Next week I will show you the finished full colour collection.
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can” Arther Ashe.
We woke up to a wet Wednesday morning which was slightly unusual after a run of warm weather but the land certainly needed it. My morning routine has gone slightly off the last few weeks, I recently discovered that starting your day well bodes for a productive one. It was just my youngest son and I this morning making for a relatively peaceful breakfast. The eldest is away on a week long school residential at an outdoor pursuits centre and the sculptor was up at 3.30am to make another trip to London. We received a confirmation email which drafted the running order for the evenings diner which stated; ‘After main course David invites Sam Shendi to say a few words’.
I felt about as nervous as doing our VAT return manually (which I have just done as I have been in the shop all day) and I am not even the one having to speak. He hasn’t prepared anything! I think we toyed with the idea for ‘STart’ as a business name, the first letters of our initials followed by art, sounded pretty good to me but somehow we came up with Arabesque. Big debate about who actually came up with that! However, START is the name of a five year running art fair now based in the prestigious Saatchi gallery.
So the sculptor drove down to Saatchi gallery with some sculptures for June’s collector’s club dinner. We are trying not to get too excited or hopeful that this could result in anything….it is so hard. Each opportunity we get feels like it could be the next big break but as of yet they are all just little steps, none of which enable us to project him into being a full time sculptor or breaking through into something more concrete. I don’t think the art world is concrete or sustained, but some indication we are in the right direction and some break through would be good. We remain patient (ish)!
On Tuesday evening our youngest and I watched the preamble to the Egypt v Russia World cup football match. The start of Salah’s life began from a small village in Northern Egypt. The start of Shendi’s life also began from a small village in Northern Egypt some twenty years prior to that. I thought of the parallels and the differences between Salah and the sculptor. Sport and Art careers are very different but they are both reliant on that lucky break. My husband also spent a few years in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, so in some respects an even more untrodden path leading him yesterday down to London to Saatchi.
Whilst he was dining in the gallery, I cooked at home and then waited for a call. 11 o’clock he rang said it was, “‘expletive’ awesome” and that they had to pack up and drive back so he would tell me all later. Of course after that, I was too excited to sleep. 1am, 2am…think I got to sleep by 3am and the sculptor rolled in at 5am. Having thought yesterday was going to be coffee fueled day actually it was today. When the youngest and I returned from school/shop and after school activities the sculptor was still asleep and hasn’t stirred. So it is now Thursday night, summer solstice and I still don’t know what happened. The sculptor slept for 24 hours. Finally, this morning (Friday) at 5 am he gave me a run down of the event.
It was an exciting dinner with Saatchi CEO Nigel Hurst and Start Art Fair co- founder David Ciclitira. Making their acquaintance and being advised on which direction to take for his solo booth at the start art fair in September.
Quite appropriately this special piece below, entitled ‘The Diner’, points out the excessive spending on food and drink not just in rich societies but in poorer countries too whilst other parts of the world suffer with starvation. Whatever you are going to eat, whatever the cost within 6 to 8 hours it will be going down the toilet.
When I first met my husband (before he was my husband) he gifted me an amazing hand drawn sketch book he had won as a prize at university. When we were in Egypt on a visit to his village we went to his Auntie’s house and I commented on her dress (abaya), she went off to make tea and came back with a tray of drinks but wearing something different. The dress was now folded and gifted to me. Arab culture is renowned for their generosity, it is part of their hospitality. So at the dinner when David said he liked the piece, ‘The Diner’, the sculptor immediately said to him, “it’s yours”.
Today as we sit and talk through his plan for the START art fair in September (which I am very excited to go to, it will be my second ever trip away from the boys) my husband is talking about taking his coffee machine and water bottles to give to people. We have spoken out the layout, what to do with the walls and publicity material.
It is another step. Another part of the journey. It is all a start.
When writing blurbs or bits and pieces for galleries, agents and articles we often describe my husband’s work as minimal, referencing the sixties minimalistic movement and stripping the human form down to the bare essentials.
In my own recent quest for minimising the home, trying to contain our family in a small northern English terrace house, I discovered Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” Just a few pages in it dawned on me that, the way of the essentialist, is very much the way of the sculptor. ‘The relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way”.
Originating from Aristotle, the term ‘essentialism’ is the idea that everything has an essential nature to it. Plato, too was one of the first essentialists, believing in the concept of ideal forms.
Our youngest has asked a few times, “Why don’t you do arms Baba”. The sculptor answers making the point that they aren’t necessary. I have heard him speak about how Egyptian sculpture lasted longer than Roman sculpture because there were no weak points. An almost ideal form that could remain. Roman sculpture today stands without arms because they have been lost to the elements where as the ancient Egyptians made no gaps between arm and torso. The Egyptians knew what was essential but also had a style that would remain in tact. It is in the taking away that more is added, and in this case time.
Not only does my husband sculpt in an essentialist way I feel he lives his life to that aim. He lives by design (pardon the pun) perhaps it goes hand in hand, he is so ruthless in his pursuit of sculpting and because he is not yet a full-time artist his time has to be used to purposefully. He has a, “disciplined, systematic approach for determining where his highest point of contribution lies, and then his execution of these things appear to be almost effortless”. That effortlessness makes it easy to think that it is un-challenging or un-demanding and consequently, I become forgetful of how hard he works.
In this journey from realism to the minimal my husband’s work takes away all that is not essential to the story he is telling. “An Essentialist thinks almost everything is non-essential”. For the pieces are like three-dimensional stories in a very contemporary, minimal form. Play is an important part of our development because it doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself. My husband’s work is playful in the use of colour but also the shapes and themes which are provoked.
‘The essential life is living a life that really matters, a life lived without regret. If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your tie and energy in it then it is difficult to regret the choice you make. You become proud of the life you have chosen to live.”
In short, I think Sam Shendi is up there as one living an essential life and consequently his master pieces mould into an art movement of Essentialism. Then of course I should say, it is essential that they are seen, that the work is viewed and appreciated by the many. This is what the sculptor is working so hard to achieve.
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:
I have caught some beautiful days this summer. Wandering. Walking. Captivated by the clouds and flowers this year. Always looking up for some loftier inspiration. I dart around like the swallows in my pursuit for easier homemaking, exercise, minimising and reducing waste, writing and looking after our business and the boys. Reminded recently about the need to be grateful for the place where we are at, both mentally and physically. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Sometimes grounding ourself in the importance of seeing something through, brings us back to earth.
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.
Here is a sneak preview :
I looked to the stars and promised to stop searching and start focusing on myself. Two days later, May 19th, I remember the date, there was a knock on the front door of my parents house. I walked down the stairs and there he stood. Almost like a prayer answered. He was designing the bathroom and we all sat at the dining room table talking to my parents about bathroom taps. I have a vague recollection of bringing down my art folder and showing him the cards I was working on. Think he had been expecting a 15 year old when my parents had said they had a daughter at home.
It was pouring down with rain so my Dad offered him a lift back to the shop and he asked him why I looked sad. My Dad told him and he said something along the lines of, I’ll look after her. He then went into the showroom (we didn’t own one at the time) and told the owner he had just met his wife. That was fourteen years ago next month.
Today we have been married 11 years. How he knew, I don’t know. He knows things like that. Strong gut instinct, where as I have less of a gut instinct. Yin and Yang we are. Funny how we remember significant dates. Capsules of time. I hear a lot about people having date nights. We don’t do date nights. It’s aways a date. We seem to be in a perpetual flow of living, talking, laughing, walking through this journey of life, art and love.
The style and theme of this new collection started way back then in those early days. He made a medium sized wooden one and hand painted it in our flat. It was so different from all his clay work at that time. I loved it, I always said it was the best. We then had it outside our house for years but of course it couldn’t sustain the weather conditions. Once we had the studio he made 3 large ones from steel. One sold through Mayfair and another through Saatchi online to Panama, we had interest in the third but they chose something else instead. I always jump up and down saying I knew it was special. Now we have a collection of these, a reminder of how things start and grow. Like a date.
The Date (2016) Sam Shendi
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:
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.