Helio Ephemera is a solar-powered drawing instrument that transcribes the energy of the sun into the material form of a drawing in real time. Alongside its mechanical components, it combines materials formed from ancient sunlight and organic life in the story of Earth’s natural carbon cycle, such as graphite (the marker) and limestone (the marble surface).
Helio Ephemera’s graphite marker is connected to a solar panel outdoors and is powered by the sun, orbiting like a comet erratically and dynamically as the solar energy is obscured and revealed by cloud, precipitation, shade and so on. Meanwhile the marble platen revolves once in 24 hours, evenly powered by mains electricity. The artwork is therefore reliant on environmental conditions and works in its own way, and may appear inactive on cloudy days , nights, and solar eclipses.
In this way, each day is a very different drawing, as patches of sunlight lead to alternating marks and spaces as the marble slowly rotates. The piece is allowed to accumulate drawings over days or weeks, making very dense and complex drawings. Occaisionally the marble surface is cleaned and even sanded back to 300 grit before a new drawing begins.
Decarbonising our energy infrastructure and rapidly switching to renewables demands that we recalibrate our day-to-day expectations around how and when we use energy, and what those energy sources look like. It will mean being attentive to the natural rhythms of the Earth’s systems and its ebbs and flows, including daylight hours, wind velocity and tides. Helio Ephemera attests to the importanceof being in responsive choreography with the planet, to exist within the boundaries of its abundant resources and carbon budget, and to remain in balance.
(Thanks to Anna Briers at UQAM for the gallery text, expanded by me here)
Helio Ephemera installed at MARS Gallery Melbourne in 2022
the solar powered mechanism in action
a drawing under way , about 4 hours in, at the artists studio in Castlemaine , Vic Australia 2021
Some drawings on paper, 80 x 80 cm , silver ink on hand coloured water colour paper were made
in the studio and are still available
the 24 Volt monocrystalline Solar Panel on site outside UQ Art Museum in 2022/23