our beloved and sacred sun. Adam Bialek on the value of the sun

Editor’s thoughts

our beloved and sacred sun began as an ode to life. What would life be without light, without the sun? This question was perhaps more pressing when the sun dictated our rhythms and governed our lives, and all modes of existence followed nature’s cycles. In contemporary times, as Adam Bialek points out, ‘the terror sets in as we realize our memories of sunlight have become unnatural and vestigial’.
The awareness of our detachment from these natural environments and cycles compelled the Polish artist to showcase life at every level, from concept to materiality. Consequently, the final light sculptures are crafted from bio-based materials that will naturally age, transform, and ultimately return to the earth.

our beloved and sacred sun – solar idol 05 by Adam Bialek, 2023. 360×260×80 mm

How did this fascination with the sun begin?

Adam Bialek: It began with the observation of our domestic spaces, our modern habitat, and our environment. The human animal is as much a part of the ecological and biological cycles and niches as any other mammal – even if we are no longer conscious of it ourselves. As modern humans stray from our ancestral roots, our once natural environments have been gradually replaced with artificial and barren landscapes, – and our systematic removal process of self from our natural environment, from these cycles, creates an environment of perpetual stress and disconnection. This relentless transformation of our surroundings signifies the slow and somber rupture from our symbiosis with nature, unsettling the very core of our being. The effects of this ‘human domestication’ are studied by i.e. environmental, neurobiological, psychological, and philosophical schools of thought. It is also most commonly known as the biophilia hypothesis, the innate need to connect with nature, – which in turn is what inspires biophilic movements in design and architecture.

The emotions evoked by our sun and its sunlight embody energy; our inner light, joy, love, will, and vitality. Feelings that elevate us, fill us with radiance, and give us our inner strength.
Yet we have dismissed the value of the sun and its presence. We have allowed our natural horizon to become closed off, sterile, and unfamiliar. The terror sets in as we realize our memories of sunlight have become unnatural and vestigial. And there is an equal emotional and environmental impact of this estrangement. Our environment deteriorates, perpetuated by how disconnected our feelings have become. A complete disregard for the living, for the natural, for emotional value and weight, – for the sake of personal gain and blind progress, conformity and obedience, for the sake of fast and cheap. Our daily environment has changed beyond recognition. These are not humane living conditions. The removal of such an intrinsic aspect of nature from our environment, the sun and its radiant light, disrupts the essence of our well-being, our inner harmony. The physical spaces we occupy are reflected in our inner, emotional, and mental spaces. And the objective lack of the sun is reflected in how we feel, subjectively. Our inner sense of energy, joy, and passion fades in its absence. We long to feel the sun. Experience its amber light; gaze upon the horizon and existence, all that remains exciting and unknown, but fills us with warmth, tenderness, and affection.

Context: Sun egg manuscript. Astronomical and Medical Miscellany

Aristotle believed that the most basic level of the psyche is vegetal. It’s the most fundamental, shared mode of life, common to all living beings, whether they are plants, animals, or humans. A type of existentialism, or base consciousness, is buried deep in our minds. I interpret our acknowledgment of the need for this natural element as vestigial remains of vegetal memory, a recognition that all of life is distributed and transformed through cycles of biosystems; starting with the sun, sunlight, and its energy.
This is reflected in how our sun has fascinated us, since the very beginnings of humanity. Sun is the most integral part of life, of these cycles. I am amazed by how we have developed civilizations and cultures trying to understand these cycles, trying to escape them, and trying to tame them all. I see ancient solar worship, solar art, as our attempts to display our dependence on solar energy; to capture, to explain, to predict, to celebrate, – the patterns of the sun’s movement, and the distribution of the sun’s energy. It’s ancestral wisdom, rediscovered and lost, time and time again.

Context: ‘Solar-headed’ petroglyphs in Tamagaly Valley, southeastern Kazakhstan (tracing by A. Rozwadowski and M. Hudjanazarov)

From Scandinavia, through Mesopotamia, to ancient petroglyphs, you have been studying various ceremonies, symbols, and icons of solar deities around the world and across cultures. Could you tell us more about your research?

Adam Bialek: I’ve been studying the sun, our relationships with it, sun beliefs, sun worship, sun myths, and solar deities. The stories, the symbols, the rituals, made me realize something so incredible yet so simple. They are all of our attempts to explain the sun. Ancient sun-worship art and solar idols are actually proto-design objects – figurative and decorative solar calendars, attempting to capture and display diagrams of the sun analemma.
Now, as far as I know, this isn’t something that is recognized officially by any archeological or anthropological doctrine. To be honest I don’t think this theory has ever been recognized by anyone, officially or unofficially.

The analemma is the path, the movement that our sun takes around the sky throughout the whole year, in a unique pattern resembling the figure ‘’8’’. It is challenging to notice and capture it in the modern day, but to be able to capture it accurately and explain it in ancient times, when we knew how integral the sun was and when the sun dictated our rhythms and lives, is particularly intriguing. Ask yourself, how would you have done that?
Now let’s look at the ancient solar art, having our analemma in mind. The motif of dual circles is repeated so often when depicting the sun, with one always being smaller or on the inside, and having fewer spokes or sunrays, than the other, bigger one. This can be even expanded to explain the motif of divine solar twins. So many of our attempts to map the sun’s analemma have been anthropomorphized, given human attributes – because the only way we can explain something is through our human lens. It also makes it easier to remember and re-tell the story over and over again. We recognize ourselves in the sun, and the sun in ourselves.

These light sculptures represent the physical translations of your research, your way of communicating ideas about the sun. How would you describe our beloved and sacred sun? And how did you translate your research into this series of objects?

Adam Bialek: our beloved and sacred sun is an ongoing research to re-establish the relationship of a human being with our most profound and essential natural element – the Sun. This research is my passion and I am continuously working on this project, experimenting and evolving it further to make it into my thesis, and to push the boundaries of what it can be. There isn’t a day that I’m not thinking about the Sun.

The current translation of the research is a series of light sculptures, in the shape of a tablet depicting a solar idol, a personified sun deity I have designed. I needed it to have substance, to make us feel, to bring the missing essence of the sun back into our lives.
To create a contemporary solar deity, I started with the modern, accurate, graph of the sun’s analemma, courtesy of NASA and SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory), and I began to ornate it. Countless sketches to find the right shape, the right idea, the right feeling. I’m always drawn to the raw, crude, instinctive forms of expression. And the longer I was looking for the right body, the more primitive it was becoming. This new/old solar deity seemed to come from cave drawings, or rock petroglyphs, – an artifact from a culture ancient and forgotten. But it still contained all the information. It is an accurate solar calendar. Even the facial features point to the solstices and equinoxes.
Based on the drawing, to get a sense of scale and feeling, I sculpted the original tablet in clay, and the deity was carved in the style of cuneiform writing – specifically to resemble the Sumerian ideogram ANU, meaning both godhood and sun.

Process: our beloved and sacred sun original tablet in clay by Adam Bialek, 2023. Bialek started by drawing the modern, accurate, graph of the sun’s analemma.
Process: our beloved and sacred sun original tablet in clay by Adam Bialek, 2023. Bialek’s sketches evolved into a raw and instinctive solar deity.

Each object of our beloved and sacred sun is made from a biomaterial and will change over time. Is this principle of change linked to the concept of this series?

Adam Bialek: This research, this project discusses life. Our place and role in the environment.
I want, I need to show it on every level, from the concept, through materiality.
This value of life has circled to me in the use of biomaterial.
To connect it even closer to the sun, the sculptures are cast in a bio-based material around the egg yolk,- linking it with the mythological motif of the cosmic egg, the golden womb in the sky, the source of all life and creation, which is apparent in the creation stories of so many cultures, Babylonian, Ancient Egyptian, Orphic, Vedic, and others, – only emphasizing this ancient recognition of the value of nature, its rhythms, and importance of the sun. This makes me consider egg yolk as our closest physical manifestation of the sun, and it’s what made me determined to create a biomaterial based on this.

our beloved and sacred sun – solar idol 01 by Adam Bialek, 2023.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this biomaterial is how alive it is, from its beginning to the end. Each object is alive, ages, and changes. The preparation to create a singular piece is long. Time and care are as much of important factors [they are hyper objects] as the other materials. After a weeks-long process of fermentation, the egg-yolk proteins break apart, and I am able to mix the emulsion with other organic ingredients and cast it in the mold, where it needs another few weeks of me tending to it before it dries and hardens. And when it is finally ready, it is still alive. I believe that using a living ingredient and essentially killing it for our anthropocentric need for objects is contradictory. To process such resource into an object requires us to not only be respectful of it and where it came from, but also consider the life and the afterlife of the object, – and so to further allude to our visceral and circular connections with the source of life, the material is designed to biodegrade fully, – fertilizing it’s final resting place, and returning the life to the earth.

our beloved and sacred sun – solar idol 04 by Adam Bialek, 2023.

What were your primary references (Books, authors, etc.) before/when creating this series?

Adam Bialek: Some of the specific titles I’ve read while working on this are:
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, by Erich Fromm;
Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, by Timothy Morton;
Conceptualizing Personhood for Sustainability: A Buddhist Virtue; Ethics Perspective, by Christian U. Becker and Jack Hamblin;
A Thousand Plateaus, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari;
Journeys to the Sun, by Andrzej Rozwadowski;
Image of the city, by Kevin Lynch;
Shamans and symbols, by Mihály Hoppá;
Building, Dwelling, Thinking, by Martin Heidegger;
Metropolis, by Ben Wilson;
Speculative Everything, by Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne.

Interview with Adam Bialek by Rita Trindade | Images courtesy of the artist.