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Catching the Sun (The Sun God)

Some of you will remember reading about a series I am working on called Catching the Sun which is about how we harness the sun’s energy. (I was interrupted by a Swan, a Queen and a “Thing in the Garden”, but have finally caught up with myself. )

So to refresh your memories Part 1 of Catching the Sun was “The Embrace” and depicted a tree seemingly “hugging” the sun. The tree  symbolizes the past or primitive world, referring to the idea of how plants harness the sun’s energy through photosynthesis. The second part was “Solar City” and  symbolizes the present and also the  future, where scientists are trying to mimic photosynthesis  with solar energy. I wanted part 3 to  illustrate the desires of  mankind , where solar power has become the future, and it is entirely cheap and efficient. Today scientists are still developing new solar cells basing them on plants and insects. Recent developments include trying to mimic a hornet’s body which is apparently super efficient at utilising the sun’s power.

The  third and final part of Catching the Sun  started with a sketch whilst teaching a course at Bristol Creative Glass!! (There are times whilst  teaching where you have to stop interrupting students to let them get into the  flow so that they can complete their work)

Unfortunately I have lost this first sketch, but  luckily I made  a birthday card  from it before losing it which I had added some colour to.

I developed the design so that a man would emerge high above the city with the sun in place of his head.

The trees in the distance were a reminder of the past and of man’s inspiration from plants.

I decided to make this mosaic on mesh and I changed the black background colour of the sun to gold, although I love the black, but that is for another time. Using mesh means that I can follow my drawing easily and make the mosaic direct. As some of the mosaic will have thicker tiles this is easier than the double indirect that I used for the Solar City mosaic:

I hadn’t made a coloured cartoon of the whole design so once I had finished sticking the tiles onto the mesh I found myself in a spot of bother:

The trees looked like smoke or clouds, they were too pale,  I tried laying slate over the top to see what a darker colour would look like but it just looked too complicated somehow so I took the trees right out. This bothered me as I wanted to include  the reference to the past in the mosaic, but then I thought perhaps in the far future man would forget they were inspired by plants …

I found the two hues of blue in the sky were at the wrong resolution and it was distracting attention away from  the main image, so I made it all dark blue, (the dark blue I felt was a good contrast to the sun):

Happy with it now I took the mesh off the plastic:

Trimmed around the edges:

and pressed it firmly onto a cement board spread with tile adhesive:

And when that had dried I grouted it. It is hard to see in the photo but the smalti of the sun and the matt ceramic of the man are thicker than the sky and the buildings which are made with glass and ceramic mosaic tile, therefore standing out from the background:

The Sun God

My intention was to illustrate the eventual and possible harnessing  of the sun and in doing so making man  become a Sun God, he who is entirely in control of the sun and  consequentiality in control  of our planet. I wonder would it be a good thing?

There are many ancient myths about sun gods seen as personifications of the sun itself. One of my favourites is the Egyptian sun god Ra, depicted as a man with a head of a hawk and a sun disc on his head and his daughter Sekhmet who had a head of a lioness and a sun disc. When I was a student at art college I made an animation of Ra and Sekhmet. I filmed shadows of my cat who  played the role of Sekhmet!

There is also a Polynesian myth about a boy called Maui who caught the sun in a rope net. There are different variations of the story but in simple terms  he was cross that it  went across the sky too quickly, making the days very short so there was little time to catch fish. So he caught it in the ropes and then walloped and thrashed it. (In some stories the sun had legs and he broke two of them)  The sun begged to be let go, but the boy made an agreement that he would only let the sun go if it promised to go across the sky more slowly. From that day on the sun slowed down, taking 24 hours to make a round trip instead of 7 and a half.

My modern Sun God isn’t so different from this myth, man is like Maui, beating the sun into submission saying I am cross with you sun because you are wasting all this energy that we could use!

The three parts to this series were made for the Makers Xchange exhibition at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, however I decided not to show part 2 “Solar City” as there are some andamento issues with the piece that irritate me and I don’t think it is good enough to put into an exhibition. Instead I have chosen similar colours and submitted “Going Home” from the Chorus of the Sun series (I would have put in the whole series but I sold Dawn Breakers!)

The Makers Xchange3 (exchanging work with Somerset Guild of Craftsmen) will run from 13 June – 15 July 2012 in the Riverside Gallery at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey, Devon.

You can read about Solar City” here and here and “The Embrace” here, here here and here

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