On the 7th June, 2016, one hundred and fifty years to the day since the campaign for women’s votes began, New Dawn, an artwork celebrating all the individuals involved, was revealed in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of Parliament. New Dawn is located above the entrance to St Stephen’s Hall, the site of numerous demonstrations, so that viewers of the artwork will literally stand in the footsteps of the hundreds of thousands of women and men who came to Parliament to fight for women’s right to the vote.

New Dawn is a contemporary light sculpture and a permanent addition to the Parliamentary Art Collection, as well as the first piece of abstract art commissioned for permanent display in the historic palace. Measuring over six metres high, the massive scale of New Dawn is intended to reflect the size of the campaign, and the unique hand-blown glass scrolls that make up its dawning sun reflect the many individuals who were involved in the movement and the special contribution they made to modern democracy.

The New Dawn unveiling to a packed Westminster Hall
Photo Credit: Kerry Wilson

 

The artwork draws on the visual language of Parliament itself. The scrolls are a direct reference to the Act Room at the Parliamentary Archives, where the legislation which brought women the vote and a say in the laws that govern them is stored. The glass scrolls are mounted on a portcullis structure – the principal emblem of Parliament – raised over the entrance to St. Stephen’s Hall, symbolising women’s long-awaited access to democracy.

The circular scrolls combine with the metal portcullis to create 168 distinct ‘Venus’ symbols, representing the women who fought for their right to vote. New Dawn has also been influenced by the campaigners it celebrates. The rainbow of colours used in the artwork reflects the numerous organisations that were involved in the struggle, including the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, the Women’s Social and Political Union, the Women’s Freedom League and the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage.

The title of the piece comes from the language of the campaigners themselves, many of whom conceived of the vote as offering a ‘new dawn’ for women.

The parchment scrolls in the Parliamentary Archive
Photo Credit: Mat Clark

The scrolls depicted the handblown glass, with the portcullis frame behind. Together they form the Venus symbol of women.
Photo Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

 

The lighting of New Dawn’s sun shape will rise and fall over a twelve and half hour cycle, linked to the tide of the Thames.  The ebb and flow of the illumination reflects the ever rising tide of change that campaigners were certain would bring women the vote in time.  Each scroll is individually lit, and the appearance of the artwork will change moment to moment, encouraging onlookers to consider the work more deeply and to reflect on the value of the vote and women’s role in democracy.

New Dawn was revealed on the 150th anniversary of John Stuart Mill MP presenting the first mass petition calling for women’s votes in the House of Commons. This date is generally seen as the beginning of more than seventy year’s campaigning for the vote, involving hundreds of thousands of people across the UK.

Placed on the route to the public viewing galleries, as well as the public tour route, New Dawn will educate, inform and inspire the one million visitors who pass though Parliament doors each year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A look at the making of New Dawn, from conception to the opening night in Parliament. [41 Minutes]

 

To read Mary's diary throughout the residency, visit www.newdawnartwork.com

 

Team:

Adam Aaronson, Glass Artist   Click for website
Applelec, LED Lightsheet Manufacturer   Click for website
Avolites, Lighting Software  Click for website
Chris Wilson, WLX productions, Technical Design   Click for website
Ed Jordan, Technical Support
Emma Brown, Photographer  Click for website
Kengo Kurimoto, Prototyper  Click for website
Mat ClarkTechnical Support  Click for website
Musson Engineering, Metalwork
Paul Clark, Technical Support  Click for website
Peter Bridgeman, Technical Support
United Anodisers, Metal Finishing  Click for website

 

Special Thanks:

Claire Hope, Nick Lott, Vince Jack, Akimasa Kurimoto, Roger Kings, Jono Retallick, Peter Ockendon, Alison Carlier.

Twenty eight tent structures sited on the Mount overlooking the town, and illuminated from dusk until dawn for three day and nights.

The inspiration for the work came in part from a novel – ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamant.  It is a biblicalstory set in Syria around 1500BC and portrays the strengths of female relationships in pre-modern society.  It tells of the way in which, in some cultures the women of the village who were menstruating would stop work, separate themselves from the group, and move together into huts or tents away from the centre.

Red Tents is a representation of this rite. In placing the light installation away from the town centre but still in view, I wanted to illustrate the subtle separation of the experience which reinforces the uniqueness of the female sex.

 

In 2011, I was approached by Surrey Arts to collaborate with artists Jono and Debi Retallick and Mat Clark to create a multi -sensory landscape installation that would be part of the Olympic torch relay event celebrations in Surrey. 

Over a period of three months we created the twelve, six-meter columns that were made up of one thousand individual pieces of chalk, hand made porcelain leaves and cast bio-resin insects.  

Mat Clark produced a surround sound score to which the lighting sequences were programmed.

 

Concept

To create a series of sculptural shafts of light within the trees, like the beams that show up dust swirling in the air. 

I wanted the light source framing our suspended pieces to have an architectural, cathedral like quality. The soundscape needed to animate the sculpture and have a cinematic sense, creating a magical, joyful and sometimes frightening effect.  

 

 

Photo Credits: Emma Brown

Created using three thousand kiln fired recycled glass jars of varying size, arranged as a large-scale installation approx 8m in diameter.

The jars were arranged on the ground, in sets of concentric circles, which were floodlit using ultraviolet projectors.

The jars had been slumped during multiple kiln firings to produce an array of unique and individual shapes, collectively giving them an anthromorphological feel. The illuminated circle was arranged in such a way that the jars appeared to ‘lean’ into a central spot.

As dusk fell, the piece gradually emerges from the mixture of the natural twilight and the projected UV.   

The piece was accompanied by a multichannel sound work featuring rising and falling orchestral chords, samples of radio interference, and snippets of dialogue taken from the early Apollo moon missions.

This work was viewed on two levels, from the ground, where the detail of the individual shaped glass was visible, and from above, using the roof balconies of the Abbots Hospital for an aerial view.

The Smell of the Moon was inspired in part by the story of Apollo 16 astronaut Gene Cernan, who noticed the smell of ‘burned gunpowder’ from the dust on his boots when he removed his helmet inside the capsule after completing his moon walk.

The notion of a space where a sense cannot exist.

To imagine the moon in a multi-sensory way, rather than as light in the sky makes it more real – less distant or scientific, bringing an imaginary environment alive and forming a starting point for this installation.

For this piece I wanted people to view the work from the rooftop of the building – which meant climbing a 14-century spiral staircase in the darkness, to emerge onto a narrow gallery rarely open to the public.

 

Photo Credit: Emma Brown

I have approached this project as a small piece of land art, using a bold, minimalist sculptural form in a landscaped setting. It is intended to celebrate the whole suffragette movement and In a broader sense to be a token for all women- a feminine marker, and a memorial to the death of Emily Davison at Epsom Racecourse.

The starting point is the symbol for woman- a cross with a circle beneath.

The circle is represented in inverted form as a polished white concrete ellipse, approximately 8m by 4m, placed on the centre line of the roundabout.  Landscaped below is the cross, in the form of a chalk path, which dissects the sculpture and radiates diagonally out to the perimeter.

The surrounding area outside the chalk path remains as grass.

The concrete ellipse would act as both an outline against the sky, and a frame- capturing the view of the surrounding fields. Once a year, at dusk on June 8th, the setting sun would appear held in it’s centre - commemorating the day that Emily died.

During the night, the white surface of the concrete is illuminated in purple, using architectural floodlighting. The whole echoes the colour theme of the Women’s Suffragette movement – white, green and purple.

 

CGI Credit: David Richards

Measuring the impact of the arts within prison

 

From January 2014 I have been artist in residence at HMP Send, Surrey.

I mentor a group of 10 female inmates.

Prisoners are issued with ‘volumetric boxes’ in order to store their personal possessions over the duration of their sentence.

The size of these black cardboard containers sets the limit for their official quota of physical possessions in the prison.

In the event of cell searches or relocation, inmates are required to store everything they own within the confines of the box; additional material is forbidden.

The box structures are a representation of each of the members of the Watts Art Group – their presence, their individual personalities, their creativity – each reduced to a symmetric symbol imposed by their circumstances, into which once a week, I am allowed a small window.  

An installation is created with the same boxes laid out in the gallery- displayed and lit as artistic pieces.

 ‘The group’ is interposed within the classical surroundings of the gallery space, surrounded on all sides by the socially engaged paintings of George Watts, and housed overall within the bigger Watts Trust, with its ethos of The Arts as a vehicle for social transformation.

 

Photo Credit: Emma Brown

The Birth of Stars is a bespoke digital light, sound and dance event created by Choreographer Rachel Palmer from The Dance Movement with artist Mary Branson, composer Mat Clark and animator Rosie Gunn. The work was commissioned by G Live, Guildford and performed on 11 – 12th October over 4 performances.

The cyclical process of a star being created and extinguished was brought to life in the studio space. A 35 minute performance staged as a metaphor for the cycle of human existence.

Experienced from the outside the building looking in, audiences watched as performers interacted with digital light projections, listening to an intimate 3D sound score on wireless headphones.

 

Photo Credit: Ciarran Minns

Can we influence what happens in the world around us?

Are our lives ruled by fate or destiny? Can we change things through wishing, prayer or positive thinking?

If we listen and look out for the signs, will our lives become more fruitful? Or is this Wish Full Thinking?

At the root of this installation is our shared experience of what it is to be human, how we negotiate our lives using codified and often elaborate mechanisms to steer ourselves from one day to the next.

Whatever our age, sex or race, we are all subject to the same fundamental forces, but can these influence the way we move through the peaks and troughs of each year?

These ideas are at the root of my work - how we negotiate our lives using codified and often elaborate mechanisms to steer ourselves from one day to the next.

500,000 white feathers fill the Glasshouse in the Horniman Museum accompanied with a sound piece by Mat Clark. 2014
Photo Credit: Mat Clark

80,000 white feathers are arranged on the empty chancel floor of the Old Saxon Church. Three UV cannons overhead illuminate the piece, making the feathers glow.

Ten hidden audio speakers were placed around the site to create an abstract surround sound experience, sourced from sound recordings of the church’s own single bell, which was then edited and manipulated.

The work could only be viewed from the entrance of the chapel, the feathers barring access to the whole church.

Photo Credit: Mat Clark