A journey to visit the The Sun Voyager sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason in Reykjavík, Iceland

Richard Storer-Adam takes us on a trip to visit, admire and understand this ethereal and haunting Viking sculpture in polished stainless steel.

Richard Storer-Adam is Managing Director of Double Stone Steel Ltd.

A trip to see this haunting sculpture.

A journey to Iceland

If you decide that you want to take a trip or perhaps more appropriately a voyage to see the sculpture Sun Voyager in person, then you will need to wrap up warm. As a bonus, after travelling all that way to Iceland, there is a good chance you could also see and experience the breathtaking and ethereal northern lights.

Sun Voyager is situated in Reykjavík, Iceland. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and has a tiny population of 120,000 people. The population of Iceland is only around 342,000 people making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

In 1986, a competition was held by the authorities in the west district of the city. The committee in charge of the competition was looking for a way to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of Reykjavik. Sun Voyager’s creator Jón Gunnar Árnason and his concept for Sun Voyager won.

The Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik by Jón Gunnar Árnason. Photograph by Jo Dusepo.

The Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik by Jón Gunnar Árnason. Photograph by Jo Dusepo.

After years of meticulous and highly skilled work the Sun Voyager, or Sólfar as the Icelanders call it in their language, was unveiled on the small headland of Sæbraut on the 204th anniversary of the city of Reykjavík. The date was August 18, 1990. Sæbraut is Icelandic for sea road.

Materials

Sun Voyager is constructed out of high-quality, polished stainless steel, The base is a circle of solid granite. It is a stainless steel masterpiece and shows just how stainless steel can withstand severe weather and freezing temperatures.

Sun Voyager was constructed in close accordance with Jón Gunnar’s enlarged full-scale drawing and fabrication was overseen by Jón Gunnar Árnason’s assistant, the artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson. The stunning realization of Sun Voyager was carried out by Reynir Hjálmtýsson and his team.

During the time of the sculpture being created Jón Gunnar himself was seriously ill and a year before it was positioned on Sæbraut he died. This event gave rise to speculation as to the meaning of the sculpture and whether it represented the journey of souls to the world of death.

Interpretation

It is often also thought at Sun Voyager is an interpretation of a Viking warship or longboat. Both these theories are wrong, the Artist had in his thoughts a dreamboat, a magical vessel to free his mind to take him on epic journeys towards the sun. Sun Voyager is an ode to the Norse Goddess Sunna or Sol. Sunna is female, while her brother Mani, is the God of the moon.

Sun Voyager holds within its own dreamlike form the hope and the promise of undiscovered territory, an unreal world populated by shadows, gods and the eternal dreams of humanity, humanity that is full of freedom and the hope of never-ending journeys across the realms with the Gods beside us, guiding us.

Placement

The setting of the sculpture is indeed magical in itself with Mount Esja across the bay and looking towards the dramatic coastline curving from Grundarhverfi along to the entrance to the 30km long fjiord Hvalfjörður.
And yet the sculpture is close to passersby and motorists giving an easy view of this ethereal structure whilst walking or driving along Sæbraut to people busy in their everyday lives and perhaps adding a further dimension to their thoughts. Seen against the evening sky looking exquisitely elegant and scorpionesque with breathtaking grace and an integral dynamism it does indeed appear as if it were about to sail upwards into another world

Sun Voyager sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason as seen adjacent to Sæbraut. Photograph by Benjamin Low, Polarsteps.

Sun Voyager sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason as seen adjacent to Sæbraut. Photograph by Benjamin Low, Polarsteps.