Amberley Long: Gravity & Flow by Sara Bowler
Gravity and flow are central to the work of Amberley Long, a Cornwall based artist who uses the term to capture the elements at play in her practice and life. She believes everything happens for a reason and is interrelated, even if the connections are not immediately apparent. She encourages viewers to develop their own interpretations and feel confident in their views, interested in the new narratives that emerge.
(I first met her in my role as a writer, one of four selected to engage with participants of GASS, a graduate artist start-up scheme initiated by Cultivator Cornwall, a programme funded by European Structural and Investment Funds, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council.
Drawn to kindred interests in history, archaeology and land(scape), we discussed her approach to making art during an in-depth interview over Zoom, an ongoing requirement during the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I was particularly struck by her use of two materials, granite and cement, intrigued by her description of how the former resists change, while the latter is constituted to become fluid when cast, yet rigid and unyielding when set. Early experiments saw her fusing sandstone with cement, creating hybrid rocks, one a perfect imprint of the other. Pure hydrated cement picks up fine detail of the surfaces it is poured onto while granite holds detail when carved because of its density. Her work holds these elements in tension, balanced between the forces of gravity and the solidity of materials.
Long is intrigued by architectural spaces. Attracted to steps, stairs and corners, alert to the shapes they form, she has used these motifs since early 2020, experimenting with small scale cast steps and levels, creating ambiguous structures leading into blank walls or ending abruptly in space as free form stairways to somewhere. “I felt the need to create a different perspective on brutalist architecture and buildings.” she states in an Instagram post. Recent photographs of the latest Serpentine Gallery pavilion in London, designed by Counterspace, reflect this interest, seeming to ask the question, ‘Where is this going? Can I get there this way?’
Photography (digital and film) performs a key role in her exploration of sites; a way of recording effects of time in and on place, the fleeting moments so well suited to the camera. She warmed to my description of the ‘found and incidental’ to describe how she selected things, places, moments of interest. Indeed, at this stage in her career, exploration and experimentation are central to her practice as she develops new lines of enquiry and ways of working, building on her playful yet considered approach developed during her undergraduate years. Long describes a fascination with depth in landscape, how its highs and lows give form, an amalgam of positive and negative spaces that ultimately create its distinctiveness. The land of Cornwall is as different from that in Kent as the latter is from France. Considering it from an aerial perspective or a high vantage point, reveals its unique characteristics. Seeing places from above, looking down and into, reveals negative spaces in terrain we often assume is level or higher than us.
Taking these ideas at a micro level, she has taught herself to read braille, a paper thin landscape of tiny bumps, intrigued by the language’s capacity to convey meaning and sensory insight to the visually impaired. She describes this as ‘seeing through touch’ and wonders how she might embrace this understanding in her cast reliefs of the found and incidental objects she retrieves on walks; pieces of bark, stones, pebbles. She is planning to work with a visually impaired artist to develop these ideas, once Covid restrictions allow for freer movement between people. Working with others is a key element in her approach. A founding member of the Quarry House Collective located at Trenoweth Quarry near Mabe in Cornwall, she anticipates the site will become a hub for artists to come together to work, talk, share, teach, learn. She believes artists draw strength from each other, collaborating when needed while working independently in each other’s company.