'I wanted to make people think', says feminist artist behind winning suffragette artwork design (From This Is Local London)
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'I wanted to make people think', says feminist artist behind winning suffragette artwork design at Epsom Downs
Mary Branson said she wanted to design a conceptual piece of art which would make its viewers ask questions
The feminist artist behind the winning design for a public piece of suffragette artwork said it is a "conceptual work with many layers" which aims to not only commemorate Emily Davison but the continuing struggle for women’s rights.
Mary Branson’s concrete ellipse design was selected as the artwork to commemorate Davison, who died after running out in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby, and other women who have helped achieve equality and votes for women, by a judging panel in July - despite attracting the least support in a public vote on six proposals, held in May.
The ellipse would be aligned so the setting sun would appear held in its centre once a year, on the day Davison died, June 8, and a bench would be situated in front of the sculpture for people to sit and view it.
The 8m by 4m polished white ellipse, which would not require much maintenance, would also be illuminated in purple in the evenings - with the white of the concrete, the purple light and the green of the Downs representing the colours of the suffragette movement.
Mrs Branson, 48, said she took inspiration for its "simple and strong" form from artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Nancy Holt, and believes it is a beautiful piece which would be a "living memorial" to Davison and the struggle of women.
She said: "The women’s movement is still going today. If you look at the design, there are two gaps in the ellipse which symbolise that we still have far to go.
"There are lots of subtle things happening in the work. It has many layers. By making it minimal, it makes people think.
"You start to ask questions and it starts to unfold."
Mrs Branson, from Guidlford, said the use of light in her work is important as "it is very ancient, it brings in the environment and has a magical quality".
She said she researched the history of Davison and the suffragettes, conducted a site visit to the roundabout on Epsom Downs where the artwork is to be erected, and looked into the history of the area and traffic considerations before "thinking about what I really wanted to say".
On the controversy surrounding her selection as winner despite having attracted the lowest number of votes, 30, in a public ballot she said: "The initial drawings for the piece weren’t particularly strong so people may not have been able to understand it. But it is conceptual.
"You can never please everybody, but hopefully when it’s made people will be won round.
"I am a feminist and feel very proud of it."
Mrs Branson, who has spent the last 10 years working with communities on temporary and permanent public art installations and has degrees in Art and Space and Fine Art, became an artist after quitting her job as a long-haul stewardess, which she found difficult to manage as a single mother.
She said: "I realised I had to do something that made me happy in life and art always did.
"After that, life started to work for me.
"To live in a society where we can choose to live how we want is because of people like Emily Davison. It’s really important to carry on trying to champion the women’s movement."
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