Cultural Precinct

Hours to Sunset

Sundial - an anachronistic chronometer for The University of Western Australia

Shaun Tan's original artwork re-imagined into the beautiful Hours to Sunset mosaic sundial. Dr Peter Kovesi, Centre for Exploration Targeting, calculated the shadow lines required. Shaun then transformed the lines into a fantastical artwork, the colours and style taken from his experience of painting the West Australian coast.

Shaun Tan with his Oscar

Shaun Tan graduated from The University of Western Australia with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature. Over the years, he has won numerous awards for his art and writing, culminating with an Academy Award for his short film 'The Lost Thing' and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award honouring his contribution to children's literature.

Iain Middleton revealing the eye

Artisan mosaicist Iain Middleton tiled both the sundial and the courtyard below. His painstaking attention to detail allowed the freeform shapes to appear effortlessly and seamlessly covered by square mosaic tiles. As Shaun Tan remarked "It's really terrific to see an idea become a reality like this, and looking more effective even than the mental image."

An ancient technique with modern materials

The fine detailed mosaics were created by combining traditional Venetian glass design with modern industrial manufacturing techniques. The sundial image was scanned and reproduced as a pixilated map, which was used to establish sheets of images containing a total of 337500 individual tessera to make up the whole picture.

Four minutes ’til sunset

To commemorate the UWA Centenary celebrations, a time-lapse of the construction of the sundial was created. This pictorial record shows the start of the construction, to the counting down of the hours to sunset.

Construction of the courtyard

As the courtyard construction was in progress, a number of people made their mark by tiling the objects.

One visitor was particularly intrigued by the construction of the gold egg.

Courtyard at night

The beauty of this sundial and courtyard is that it works no matter the time of day. At night, the sundial is gently lit and the courtyard below glows with colour. Once the espaliered mandarin trees begin to fruit, passers-by will be able to taste as well as view this space.