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Mandy Long

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Born and bred in Devon on England’s South West coastal fringes, Sculptor Mandy Long is the youngest of four siblings. Whilst Long’s father was a local primary school head teacher, her mother dedicated her time to being just that, a mum. However she drew and painted for pleasure and could turn her creative had to just about anything as Long observed throughout her childhood. These maternal skills have been handed down to Long, who a quarter of a century on found herself equally as practical and creative when it comes to imparting knowledge to making thing for the benefit of her own offsprings.

It’s this inherent feel for materials and general tactility that’s risen to the surface in Long’s life and career that in turn has led her to major in sculpturing. In Long’s case that predominant medium is one of clay, which again, she first laid her eager hands on as a thoroughly fascinated 7-year old, and observed up close and personal in Mr Smart’s art class as she recalls well from the time. Long’s initial manipulation of the incredibly flexible subject matter resulted in a swan; or at least something closely resembling a swan. Long fell in love with clay then and there and looked on the whole process of creation as bordering on magical, and recollects as if it were yesterday as she extols the virtues of kneading and massaging and coercing that cold, grey malleable clay into that wondrous hard ceramic that comes as an end product; one that can survive a hundred lifetimes.

Because kilns are a necessary evil and they’re noted as being both expensive and cumbersome to give house space to, Long grew her clay modelling interest at night school, yet admits that never in her wildest dreams would she have believed that one day she would make her living out of it. She had had no interactions with the art fraternity nor knew of any practicing professional artists as such in whose brains she could pick. Unfortunately what immediately followed Long’s secondary schooling was not a furtherance of her art career, as instead she elected to study French at University in Edinburgh, before pursuing a number of differing career avenues, commencing with a retail management programme with Marks & Spencer’s in Brighton, before moving on to work as a residential social worker in Hounslow. Still not entirely settled on the one career that would be a game changer in life as such, Long made the decision to study for a primary teaching qualification in Bristol. In the interim years Long has had her own family, comprising of the one daughter and a couple of sons, and saw the family relocated from Bristol to Exeter.

Then in 2000 Long and her family upped sticks and moved up to Leeds, and around this time she recalls doing a great deal of soul-searching and trying to determine where she wanted to be as he family were now growing up. This culminated in Long eventually making a return to her first love, firstly via a spell of higher education in a creative discipline that would hopefully pave the way to where she ultimately wanted to be; sculpting with clay one more, only on a professional footing. In light of this cathartic moment, Long got herself accepted on a B/TEC course in 3 Dimensional Design, specialising in ceramics at Harrogate College in North Yorkshire. Long’s tutor proved to be the inspiration that she sought at this crucial juncture in her life and that of her family, and he instilled Long with a sense of purpose and renewed vigour, alongside of a more proactive approach to create work in her favoured clay, as well as affording her the confidence to take this medium and push it to the very limits as well as her own ability within it.

Figurative art and the form of remains the main draw and therein the nucleus of Long’s sculptural work and will always continue to excite and propel her and her art forward. Long cites how the sudden, immediate visual impact of Rodin’s towering statue of Balzac or Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ figures facing into the Irish Sea at Crosby Beach in north Liverpool inspire her, yet the biggest influence on her brand of sculpture is the ‘beautiful game’. Yes, football in its purest, most stripped down and athletic form is found at the epicentre of Long’s creative vision. The balance and coordination of footballer’s limbs, the dynamism and raw energy depicted in a footballer’s body, the flashes of immediate movement and the spontaneity of it exhilarate and animate Long’s artistic thoughts and provide her with the perfect starting point. Explaining how the representation and subsequent manifestation of the human form in clay dates back to Biblical times and the Book of Genesis itself, Long exudes the positive energies and chakras that has witnessed her clay models enduring both fire and water as part of their creative journey and physical deliverance.

As well as clay, or indeed, paperclay as Long prefers to adapt for her sculpting purposes, the artist also chooses glass as another favoured medium, although more often than not glass is interspersed with the original materials to highlight suspension of a certain character or situation. Because glass is transparent it lends itself to the visual occasion should a figure need to be presented as an airborne commodity. Having said that, Long is fascinated with glass per se, and loves the way she can harness the act of smashed glass to creatively imply or suggest an impact in a contact sporting arena and consequent sculpture honing this 3D aperture. Long also mentions how the smashed glass found at the foot of a suburban bus shelter or beneath a car or shop window fills her with a sense of unease which she then turns to her advantage to project and convey that precise moment that the glass must have been shattered so as to capture this explosive quality within her sculptures and the electrically-pulsing coming together of two combatants.

Nowadays Long balances her secure, regular and officially employed work as a supply teacher with forays into developing her passion for sculpture, however she still grasps the ambition to one day be in a position to devote all of her undivided time and energies to her art.