Beneath the benevolent gaze of an all-seeing bird and luminous representations of the sky and heavenly bodies, our sun casts a shadow counting down the hours to sunset.
The design was created by University of Western Australia graduate and Academy-award winner Shaun Tan; and on the occasion of its Centenary, he gifted his alma mater this visually stunning artwork, which was then recreated in Venetian glass mosaic tiles.
The west-facing wall of the University Club was chosen as the site. Venetian glass mosaics were selected as they are suitable for all weather and direct sun, being fully annealed and UV stable. Such tiles also allow for the rich palette needed in such a custom artwork to match the diverse tones and highlights required for Shaun Tan’s distinctive work.
The final piece is 4563mm x 8000mm and covers an area of 36.5m². Artisan tiler Iain Middleton created this work along with the objects in the courtyard below.
This sundial measures time relative to sunset as the shadow cast by the horizontal gnomon indicates how many hours of daylight remain in the day. The left hand curve of the sundial’s markings plot the path of the sun’s shadow during the summer solstice; the middle line, the equinox; and on the right, the winter solstice. The hour lines are angled to account for the different length of day between summer and winter.
Shaun Tan then designed a courtyard which linked to the work above, intended to turn an unused space into a vibrant active area. The extrusion of three-dimensional forms out of a two-dimensional image, as if having fallen out, is interesting and playful, allowing visitors to walk around interact with the design.
Where the vertical sundial image carries a sense of air, light and celestial objects, the horizontal is about the earth, solid mass and gravity. The two planes share similar parabolic curves and circular lines, relating to the outline and trajectory of the sun; they are also connected by gold and ‘earth’ colours using the same mosaic tiles of the sundial.