In an interview published in the newspaper Þjóðviljinn on June 11 1987, Jón Gunnar describes the genesis of the work: “In May 1985, a group of artists, members of the Scandinavian art project, Experimental Environment, gathered to take part in the Saari-Vala Environmental Art Action in Bockholm, Finland.
There I experienced a sense of the history of the origins of Icelanders … I had an uncanny feeling that I had been on this island before, when travelling on my way from Mongolia to Iceland, hundreds of years ago.
As you know , there have been speculations that Icelanders as a race originated in Mongolia. I have discovered the history of their migration to Iceland, which runs as follows: Many centuries ago, a mighty warlord, let’s say it was Alexander the Great, was living in the centre of the known world.
He dispatched his bravest and most experienced warriors, along with some women, scribes and other followers, on an exploratory expedition to the cardinal directions, the north, west, south, and east, in order to discover and conquer new, unknown territories.
Those who headed east followed the rising sun until they reached the steppes of Mongolia. There they settled down and lived in comfort.
Those scribes who accompanied the warriors were expected to document the expedition for the king. Several centuries later, when the documents written by the scribes eventually came to be examined, the people discovered that they had another fatherland in the west.
They therefore decided to gather together their belongings and head back west towards the setting sun. We followed the sun for days and years, walking, riding and sailing. We enriched our experience and our determination grew in strength as our journey progressed, and we recorded everything that we saw and experienced.
I remember endless pine forests, mountains and waterfalls, lakes, islands, rivers and seas before we eventually reached the ocean. We then constructed huge ships and sailed on westwards towards the setting sun. Some of us settled on a small island in the middle of the ocean while others sailed on further, always towards the sun…
As a result of this vivid experience of my participation in this expedition while on the island of Bockholm in the Finnish archipelago, I carved a picture of a sun ship into a granite rock by the sea. The sun ship symbolizes the promise of new, undiscovered territory.”