On Solar Spectrum and Humans
I’ve always been fascinated by the links between the solar spectrum and humans. It is a visual thing coupled with some interesting interactions. The elements found in our sun are also found in us and all living things, Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulfur and Phosphorus. We eat the food produced by the sun and the Earth working together. Phototropism pulls plants up towards the sunlight, likewise, geotropism pulls the roots into the ground via gravity.
We, humans, are ultimately bound by the suns energy. Therefore we are wrapped up in it for all our lives in many ways. This idea has informed several paintings of which the above is one.
Human Spectrum Painting
I wanted to do a painting that expressed that interaction in some way. The spectra of our sun and other stars tells us what those stars are made from. The ingredients being different for each star, as are fingerprints and DNA in human beings. Sometimes my interest in astronomy influences my paintings and sometimes it is the other way around.
Our star is the mother of our solar system. Its birth begat, (to use an ancient word) all the planets, moons and other objects in our solar system. The sun is the origin of everything on Earth, it is even the origin of us. This painting came from that desire to explore both spectra and genetic images and pair them up. Read more on the subject here Humans and Stardust
The canvas is 24inches X 12 inches. On it, I applied very thick acrylic paint with a pallet knife. I wanted the paint to be in bumpy ridges to receive the next elements in the work. Pastels are easily grated into powder. I used a fine cheese grater to render each stick of colour into thousands of dots. While the paint was still wet the particles were blown onto the canvas to mimic the solar spectrum.
Inserted in the painting I included a representation of human genetic material, its the vertical section there. A line of human genes in colour to enhance their presence. It is also a line of human material linking us back to our origin within the magnificence of our sun.
That same year, I visited an exhibition called Light and Shade at the O’Brian Science Building at University College Dublin. Someone there gave me a diffraction grating so I made an effort to make my own spectroscope. I used a black tube and old binocular lens caps. The 70 mm lens caps just happened to fit the tube perfectly. For the life of me, I cannot remember where I found the instructions to make this instrument.
Then I lashed it to my solar scope on a tripod to give it some stability. I was keen to see what would happen. Inside the tube, sunlight split into its spectrum. With my camera up against the slit, I took photographs. They were very colourful and vibrant. I was not sure if I had done any of this correctly but I like the images.
Maybe Fraunhofer Lines
As you can see there are some dark lines in curves within the colours in my image. However I would not know enough about the subject to identify them as absorption lines. These lines are known as Fraunhofer (absorption) lines. By examining these lines scientists can tell what chemicals substances are present in the sun. Other stars have their own distinct spectra. The light from stars can be observed and imaged to study their individual ingredients. Our DNA can be looked at to show our individual ingredients. We are each more connected with the universe than we realise. Moreover as species we have so much to learn about ourselves, our interaction with the planet we live on and the space we travel through. Read more on the subject here – Reading the Rainbow