The Stag outside Wimbledon Station is an impressive local landmark, devised by artist Isabelle Zhizhi Southwood who responded to the open call from Merton Council to create a sculpture for the new station forecourt. At the time in 2012, she was a sculpture student at The Slade School of Fine Art.
Isabelle submitted her maquette for the competition in her mother’s vintage Biba Suitcase, a fitting connection to the travellers using the station.
Stag in a Suitcase by Isabelle Zhizhi Southwood
Isabelle comments on the stag, “My family first came to live in Wimbledon in the 1990s. My childhood memories were not focused on tennis or Wombles, but on the local landscape. In particular, the peculiar architectural feature of the grand mysterious stag that sits upon Stag Lodge in Wimbledon Village, which I would pass on my way to school.
In 2010, when I first saw the open call from Merton Council for proposals for a new sculpture, I immediately had the idea for the stag. I was still a student then, specialising in Sculpture on a BA course at The Slade School of Fine Art at UCL.
I did some historical research, at Wimbledon Museum, and found that deer had a place in local history. I read about iron age settlers being attracted to the area because of the abundance of game; and James 1 hunting in the park attached to the first Manor House, built by Thomas Cecil 1st Earl of Exeter, in 1588.
I also read about how Wimbledon was transformed by the arrival of the railway at the bottom of Wimbledon Hill, and how the town began to grow in that direction.
The stag creates a narrative linking these two histories. Having wandered down the hill to the train station, the stag looks over its shoulder, as if glancing back at where it came from on the common. The contrast of the rural, ancient common area with the modern, commercial town and station area inspired the aesthetic and material choices – this conflict of environment is mimicked by the natural rusty Cor-ten steel juxtaposed with the clean, industrial line of the water-jet-cut silhouette. The way the sculpture changes – from being what appears to be a very large object, to almost vanishing when approached from the side – provides a similar sensation to seeing wild animals, as they fleetingly appear in view and then quickly disappear again.”
Isabelle Zhizhi Southwood with her stag maquette on special display at the Museum in October 2023