• Archaeological artefacts - the inspiration for Unearthing Image © David McKibbin
  • Unearthing - dark blacks on pots from sheep's wool Detail from the Age of Man Image © Mary Branson
  • Unearthing - Mary Branson with Age of Man frieze Image © Mat Clark
  • Detail from the Age of Man Image © Mary Branson

Unearthing, Mary Branson

Gosport Gallery, Gosport Museum and Art Gallery
7 October 2023 – 6 January 2024

 A major new exhibition is coming to Gosport Gallery this autumn.

Unearthing is the second in a trilogy of exhibitions that has been specially commissioned by Hampshire Cultural Trust for the recently refurbished Gosport Museum and Art Gallery, which opened to the public in November last year.

Unearthing is a new artwork installation by Surrey-based Mary Branson, best known for her large-scale conceptual light works and in particular for her sculpture New Dawn which is located at the entrance to St Stephen’s Hall in the Houses of Parliament. The exhibition is a multimedia, immersive installation that combines archaeological finds with sound and light projections and which explores the temporary nature of human existence through the archaeological traces left by ancient man. At the core of the exhibition are hundreds of locally discovered archaeological artefacts in a dramatic, sculptural display that tells the story of man’s journey through time to the present day – the Age of Man. 

Branson’s inspiration for the work came from her research into archaeological finds from both the Gosport area and the wider county which are held in Hampshire Cultural Trust’s collections, including pieces of pottery, flint and animal bones. The artwork is a response to the ‘frozen’ period of the Covid lockdowns and emphasises the continuity of human history and the deep-rooted connections that we share with those who came before us. 

Branson comments: ‘Coming out of lockdown, I felt as though we had collectively ‘lost time’. When I reflected on what had happened during those Covid years, everything seemed a little blurry. At the time, I coped by taking a daily walk in nature and watching the seasons change, using this as a kind of anchor. Emerging from the pandemic, I wanted to explore this sense of a frozen period by using ancient archaeological artefacts to create an artwork that underscores the continuity of human history and the deep-rooted connections that we share with those who came before us.

‘Putting our lockdown experience in this vast chronology, what felt like a momentous event shrinks. Looking back thousands of years and seeing the evidence of man feels reassuring – the same forces of nature welcomed man at the dawn of each day.’

The exhibition features newly created, smoke-fired ceramic vessels by the artist, and a large frieze, entitled Age of Man, which was created in collaboration with the Gosport community. Both elements are designed to echo our distant past and give glimpses into our future. Visitors will experience the exhibition as an immersive experience, with layers of sound in the gallery and colour-changing light projections that recreate sunlight from dawn to dusk, evoking the circular ebb and flow of our existence. 

Tara McKinney Marinus, Visual Arts Exhibition Manager at Hampshire Cultural Trust, commented: ‘This is such an exciting new artwork and we are so privileged to have Mary create it for us. The inclusion of archaeological artefacts roots the exhibition firmly in Gosport and Hampshire, and the specific local nature of the exhibition is reinforced by involvement of the Gosport community in the creation of a work for the display.’

The first exhibition at the refurbished Gosport Museum and Art Gallery was Alien Native by Portsmouth artists Heinrich and Palmer. Unearthing opens on 7 October 2023 and runs until 6 January 2024. Admission is free. 

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