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Date Minted: February 27, 2021

Artist Description: I needed color. A day/night/sunrise/sunset async art piece around color gradients

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

What I admire most about Sundial is how coy it is. Is Sundial art-first with added utility, or is it utility-first with art, and how does that uncertainty set it apart from so much of the other Crypto Art that exists in its milieu? Because there’s a line between art and artisanship, even if they share a root word. When I think of art, I think of an object designed first and foremost to be experienced, but without necessarily any real-world utility beyond that which comes from experiencing it or confronting it. Artisanship isn’t necessarily a higher or lower ideal (not to me anyways), but in my eyes implies a use-case first and, then, secondarily, or at least in equal measure, all the lovely wonder of artistry. Think architecture. Think Gaudi’s street-lamps and subway stations spread out through Barcelona. Think of a unique and incredibly-crafted cabinet or table or chair, or, in the case of Sundial, think of a clock. Because what Sundial purports to be, and what it may actually be, is an object that tracks the time. It does so perhaps archaically, without the exactitude with which we expect to be shown the time of day, but where it sacrifices genuine utility, it demonstrates a fascinating beauty, for this is not a clock, it’s a sundial. 

Sundial is an NFT with 74 various layers of color that change depending on the time of day. This means the NFT changes its colorization once about every 9 minutes throughout the 24 hours of the day, and each time it does so, Vansdesign’s creation adopts a new, Rothko-esque face, a tri-colored examination of color gradients. Every nine minutes, this piece —wherein two squares of color are separated by a single line, and placed above a long rectangle which is a blending of those two colors— decides on two new colors to examine and blend, offering nothing more to observers than this preoccupation with color, a focused and fine goal for a piece of art, and one borne out with impressive variety by the environs of the piece itself. 

What more can we say about Sundial other than it continues the legacy Rothko set out upon? If color and form are the most basic building blocks of the world as we see it, or at least the most basic building blocks of the world’s vivacity, then what Sundial does is allow us to slow down and appreciate the sheer magnitude of color, letting us return every nine minutes to experience the subtle emotions and recollections that surprisingly accompany each color. That was the majesty of Rothko, that in his comparisons between two or more colors, large-scale studies of the effect of these colors together, viewers were able to recognize how they are made to feel when experiencing these colors without any tie to identifiable form. Rarely, perhaps never, are we otherwise in a position to do so. Even the largest natural expressions of color —sky and ocean, perhaps— are bound in our minds by what they are. The color isn’t the thing, the color is a facet of the thing. When separated from the object it colors, when given the freedom to become ethereal and unbound by form, color oftentimes gloms onto subconscious processes, becoming reminiscent of items or memories or emotions in an intensely personal, highly-subjective way. For one person, red may evoke images and feelings of fire, terror, pain. It may remind another person of a sunrise in Hawaii. A third person it may make viscerally angry. When given the ability to separate from form, color becomes chameleonic, and Sundial, in then attempting to tie those colors together with times of day, seems to be trying to share color’s newfound freedom with something else often tied down by its associations: time. What, then, is time if freed from its associations with certain activities, events, necessities, or processes? What if Time, like color, can be made amorphous and changeling?

I’m not sure I can comfortably come to an answer for that question without having a piece like Sundial in my life for long stretches of time, to be returned to time and again, while it occupies  different hues and at different times of the day. This is not a piece meant for a museum, obviously, it’s a piece meant for a home, a piece of craftsmanship that would do well as an addendum to a life, not necessarily as a centerpoint of one’s focus for a moment before one moves on, but an omnipresent item to be catalogued slowly. We must learn its nuances. We must let it become a doldrum part of a life. But that’s the nature of artisanship, right? It’s different for one to see a beautiful or intricate or creatively-carved bureau in a museum than one having that bureau in their home, using it, allowing its essence to seep into the fabric of one’s living space. A rocking chair and all its creaks. A grandfather clock and its long, slow dooooooooooong’s. That is, perhaps, the greatest difference between art and artisanship. Pure art seeks to dominate the world around it, whereas artisanship seems to desire communion with that world. I could see Sundial doing both, for different people, at different times, depending on how it’s displayed. Which, Ii suppose means, it itself is unbound from form. And that’s pretty electrically meta. 

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