Land | Reland: An Interview with Amy Stephens
U.K. based artist Amy Stephens’ Land | Reland is running congruently between Portland, Oregon’s Upfor Gallery, and William Benington Gallery in London. Intrigued by Stephens’ sleek balance of natural and industrial materials, as well as the duality between the two exhibitions, I asked her about her process, experience in Oregon, and the manifestation of Land | Reland.
SH: Where did the title Land | Reland come from?
AS: Reland is evoking the notion of an object being removed from its original state and relanding in a new context. For me, it is a way for artefacts to reconnect and reconstruct the past. For example, in the exhibition Land | Reland [Portland], a giant volcanic rock from Oregon is carefully balanced on an architectonic steel column. Similarly in Land | Reland [London], a feather rock is transported from its natural state relanding in the space. At over two metres high, a new vertical impression is created without appearing overly monumental.
SH: Did you have a previous relationship to Oregon and its landscape when Land | Reland being realised? How was Portland chosen as the other location for this exhibition and how did this partnership between Upfor and William Benington come together?
AS: The directors of Upfor Gallery and William Benington Gallery met at an art fair and decided to create an intercultural exchange between Portland and London. This resulted in two artists spending focused time abroad ahead of a solo show. Heidi Schwegler of Upfor Gallery was invited to London, UK and I was invited to Portland, Oregon, a place I have never been to but always wanted to visit. My background is in Art and Geology so I imagined the native landscape would be full of inspiration.
SH: Does Land | Reland [London] contain material from Oregon, or was that all sourced in the UK?
AS: In Land | Reland [London], a feather rock is transported from its natural state relanding in the space. At over two metres high, a new vertical impression is created without appearing overly monumental. The origin of the materials include geological rocks from Oregon, marble from Carrara and cityscape materials from London. A series of objects, sourced from the landscape, are elevated to a mode of archive within both gallery spaces. For me, it is a way for artefacts to reconnect and reconstruct the past.
SH: While geological form is a big part of the show, you use bold colour as well. The yellow stripe that runs over the bottom of the photograph and continues on the wall (In Land | Reland [Portland] ), the rich purple as the background in your diptych, the turquoise in the wall sculpture, the orange/red in the repeated imagery, etc. Is colour in your work used aesthetically to draw the viewer's eye closer, or is there a deeper significance?
AS: Colour is a critical part of my aesthetic process. I am interested in the history and potential for metaphor found alongside the possibilities of pitching synthetic colours against natural objects.
SH: Have you always worked site responsively? How has the idea of site responsiveness played into your practice as a whole, and were the London space and Portland space drastically different to develop work in?
AS: Ahead of every show, I request the architectural plans to create a site responsive exhibition. This process enables me to think, respond and make architectonic forms that relate to specific elements within the space.
The two galleries are completely different but in both shows, a series of geological textures suddenly take naturally to each other as they are forced to adopt a new habitat on both sides of the Atlantic. I look to offer the viewer site specific ‘communicative landscapes’ in London and Portland that retain and later reframe contemporary architecture.
SH: Both shows contain Polaroid imagery. What is your relationship to photography?
AS: Photography is often a starting point as it enables me to capture clear moments in time.In recent work, Polaroids play a key role in my practice creating an instant object and offering the viewer a window onto the world of exteriors.
SH: The duality of a cross continental exhibition with this type of work is very intriguing to me. What does it mean for you, and do you think, in the future you will do it again?
AS: Yes definitely, I am currently in the process of planning a future exhibition leading with Land | Reland. The duality of the concurrent exhibitions highlights a concern with the appropriation of form and the process of successive layering within my work. Both exhibitions are informed by previous shows enabling me to explore shifting patterns and potential for narrative within my work.
SH: The two cities you are exhibiting in differ quite a bit. How did you find the art scene in Portland compared to the art scene in London. Anything that stands out in particular?
AS: The art community feels smaller in Portland, which provides the opportunity for artists to nurture each other’s practice. The natural landscape obviously stands out and this is visible in much of the artwork being produced in Oregon today.
SH: How would you describe your current artistic practice?
AS: At the heart of my practice is a concern with the reclamation of natural objects and the transferability of form via appropriation. This is a theme that runs throughout my work. Recent explorations are rooted within the structure’s materiality offering relationships between landscape, architecture and sculpture.
Amy Stephens Land | Reland [Portland] is on through October 27 at Upfor Gallery. Land | Reland [London] runs through November 17 at William Benington Gallery. For more on Amy Stephens visit https://www.amystephens.co.uk.