I’m developing an idea for an alignment artwork that acts like a sun dial and records the angle of the sun at a certain point of the year.
The sun in the winter (in the northern hemispere) is low in the sky, scrapping up over the horizon in the south east and dropping back again in the south-west, shining for about 8 hours at the latitude of Folkestone (51° 4′ 53.0328” N), with less sunlight time the further north you go; Glasgow’s latitude is 55.85781° N and there is approx. 7 hours of sunlight.
Winter solstice is a significant moment in the year, as it marks the return of increasing daylight. Christmas replaces the pagan festival of winter solstice to lighten the darkest time of the year with Christmas lights and festivities to possibly distract humans from the lack of light and to celebrate the return or rebirth of the light/sun.
To paint the light and the dark onto the walls behind the tree, to record the position of the tree’s shadow.
In doing so, the sun will cast a shadow which will move down through the year, as the sun gets higher and will correspond again with the mural at the winter solstice, so will act as a sundial.
The wall on the left which is presently a magnolia colour would be darkened and then mapped out and then a paler colour of paint would be painted where the light is.
White/ pale magnolia paint would be applied over the raw brick on the long wall on the above picture. The original wall would be left as it is.
I imagine using an airbrush and to paint it quite subtly, with painterly impression, not solid colour necessarily.
The overall effect would be subtle and people might miss the effect as it will look like a real shadow.
How to make the work
I painted this mural in my home about 8 years ago. It is the shadow of a vase of June flowers which was recorded on the summer solstice as the sun bounced off a window and into my flat across this table.
I have painted a paler mix of the emulsion paint used on the walls, on top of the stone/putty coloured walls, after drawing around the shadow quickly with light pencil, as the shadow moves fast.
Visitors to my flat often think it’s a real shadow and when they realise it’s a painting they seem very excited by this piece
The plotting of the shadow would be possible as the bricks will allow a map to be made and then corresponding lines can be traced and then painted.
Alternatively, the image could be projected over the wall and traced, using the bricks as a guide.
Idea in development
The idea started as thinking about building a sculpture that invited the viewer to look through the piece towards the sunrise and sunset for the winter and summer solstice and spring autumn equinoxes, like Nancy Holt’s sun tunnels…
I was inspired to design a concrete structure in the style of the remnants of the war architectural structures found along the south-east Kent coast.
History of alignment artwork: Degree show piece in 2000 @ Glasgow School of Art
I went down to watch the sunrise on Wed 18th Dec.
Looking at my shadow and the projection of light returned me to the idea I have held for about 20 years to paint a mural of the shadow of a tree over an building to preserve that moment in paint.
I looked all over Folkestone for a good shadow at the point of noon for the next few days and found the best shadow to be on the walls mentioned above.