When artist Amy Stephens reached Long Compton she couldn’t believe that the revered Rollright Stones were right there in front of her – the three Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monuments standing alone and proud.
““They were so solemn and serene. The fact that I could just walk right up to them and there was no one else there was incredibly peaceful. I wanted the stones to reland in a new environment with another narrative,” she says.
And with that first glimpse came the inspiration for her new show A Stone is a Rock Out of Place, now gracing Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock where the uplifting, resulting works of sculpture and photography spark debate, conversation, admiration, a sense of fun and a respect both for the subject matter and Amy’s own interpretation of their meaning, history and beauty.
They include a stunning collection of photographic works that capture the megalithic monuments, an undulating Perspex form suspended from the ceiling offering a portal onto the pop up landscape behind, a series of colourful mini-monoliths in stark contrast to the static oolitic stones, and her trademark flocked symmetric wood blocks which stretch horizontally or perch proudly in a series of squares, amongst others.
That Amy is going places is obvious: Her work is already in public collections in London, Blackpool, Mexico, Dublin, Mumbai and Tuscany, with further exhibitions planned in Cyprus and Dublin.
But for now her focus is very much on the Rollrights, and while finding and absorbing their power was the starting point, all Amy’s projects and work are intrinsically linked – their environmental message, their unpredictable variants, their ‘organic’ natural ethos, evolves from there.
So each of her exhibitions starts with a former piece that then informs the next, linking them with a continuous thread stretching into the future.
Her work is also informed by so many other factors; architecture, colour, geology, tectonics, nature, heritage, relics – Amy’s a magpie, her trigger points reflected in her work.
“It is hard to pigeon-hole me,” she says almost gleefully, “and I don’t like using the term sculptor because I make objects, but also use photography and do lots of drawing that you don’t see.
“But for me it’s more about creating a natural series, rather than something more forced. I only create what I really believe in, because art does stick with you.”
What is evident is the collection’s sense of celebration, hope and positivity, in this case based on the ribbons and gifts she found in the nearby woods, left by visitors in reverence to the stones and their pagan importance.
And through Amy’s reinterpretation, the Rollright Stones, on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, are now being carried into the future, ‘Land Reland’ as she calls it, exemplified by her practice of reusing and repurposing materials, scouring the globe for suitable subject matter; from Canada to Mexico, Cyprus to Dorset.
But with demand for her work ascending, and baby twins to nurture at home in Bath, Amy is very mindful of allowing both her worlds to co-exist. “I think women should be encouraged to do both. For me, having children has made me focus and look at everything differently but in a super positive way, it certainly makes me more efficient with my time.”
So how did she feel when she saw the works in situ? “I’d imagined how it would all look together, but I like seeing it in a new context. It’s terrifying but exciting all at the same time. I just hope people enjoy the show.”
Tim Sayer MBE, who curated the show, said: “The resulting work is very intimate. There is a wonderful contrast between the materials which makes us think about the relationship between manmade objects alongside natural ones.
“It’s been a pleasure and I’ve really enjoyed the process.”
A Stone is a Rock Out of Place runs until November 1 at Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock. Go to https://zuleikagallery.com/exhibitions/90-amy-stephens-a-stone-is-a-rock/overview/