As the center of our solar system, the sun only appears to rise and set because of the Earth’s rotation. As the planet completes its daily circuit, it turns east; and so our days of light sit bookended by darkness. But what of days with ceaseless sun? What of days where time has no measure?
At opposite ends of the earth—north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle—the sun is visible at all hours of the day during summer. Six months are spent in light, and six months spent in darkness. Though neither poles are populated, the phenomenon has been long documented, the first known record of midnight sun dates back to 330BC when Pytheas of Massalia, a Greek astronomer who traveled widely, wrote of an island he called Thule in his book, On the Ocean: “At the time of the summer solstice there are no nights because the sun appears there more clearly and does not show any reflection on the water”.
Later, Greek mythology proposed that north of the island of Thule was Hyperborea: a paradisal place inhabited by a race of giants where the sun set but once a year. To date, neither Thule or Hyperborea have been found, but the stories written about them serve to intensify the magic and mythos associated with the phenomenon of midnight sun.
“Light is very important to me, because there you can handle the intention of the piece”
How does one illustrate a natural occurrence that has been rendered as sublime since the first record of its existence? If you have not experienced the strangeness of living in a place where—for a time, at least—the sun never sets, how can you visualize it? We asked Argentinian designer Nicolás Cañellas of SPOT Studios to do just this. In the series of images created for IGNANT, he has rendered spaces where light is omnipresent. “The use of light is very important to me”, Cañellas explains, “because there you can handle the intention of the piece”. Cañellas’ landscapes are bruised and blushed; for even in endless sunshine, darkness is not absent. “I focused on the gradients that the sun makes in the sky,” Cañellas tells us, “that mix of colors composed with clouds and the silhouette of the mountain. To do that, I focused on real color, lighting, shapes, and textures, so even though the series is digital, everything is possible”.
In these hazy pink and purple scenes, we seem to have caught the sun on its decline. Never falling below the horizon, it appears to stop for a moment, hover, then level itself before recommencing its ascent. While sunrise and sunset are a brief affair in places where night comes to replace day, in lands where there is no darkness the colors can linger for hours as the sun hangs low and lazy just above the land.
These scenes appear situated in a time of new life and light; perhaps reflective of the eternal spring that Hyperborea was said to experience. Cañellas has captured the sun as its rays spill from behind mountains across water, slicking the surface with impossible amounts of light. In other images, the sun dances across the curves of abstract sculptures and finds its form mimicked in their metal shapes. Just as we are changed by the appearance of the sun, so too are the invented landscapes of Cañellas.