Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sun spotters

When we interviewed Rudi Gopas for Contemporary New Zealand Painters Vol 1 in February 1979, he had spent the night before staring at the moon through a hand-built telescope. It didn’t make for a very restful session with him as he had gone beyond tiredness into a frenetic state of rapid fire talking and extravagant gesture. Gopas's real obsession though was with the sun. His study of this star had resulted a few years before in his best-known series of works Paintings for the sun. In them he tracked an imaginary trip out into the universe, around the sun and back to what he considered our bankrupt world. 

For the past couple of centuries research into the sun has progressively reduced its mysteries. The British scientist William Herschel was the first to recognise the sun as a solid object with a surface and this discovery in turn influenced the great artist JMW Turner to paint the sun in a completely new way according to his biographer James Hamilton. The sun was on its way to becoming a knowable object. The knowledge Rudi Gopas sought was not one of this kind. He set out to explore the power of the sun as one of life's mysteries - even if such close-up and unprotected study put his eyes at risk.
Image: Rudi Gopas, photographed in his studio in February 197, looking at the previous night's moon-shots