Objets d'Art: "all planets lead to Saturn..."

Playing with Saturn...

In the late 'eighties, Phill started exploring the Planets - in motif and form, at least. This led to an ongoing game of playing with Saturn...

Before that, the symbolism of Power had been foremost in his work. This had been manifested through the use of  the symbols of both religious and of secular influence, including motifs as disparate as blades and  croziers, antennae and thunderbolts.

Of course, an artist's preoccupation with themes and motifs is not necessarily clear-cut in time, and artistic 'phases'  not only can overlap, but are sometimes re-visited later, with new skills or different materials...

A transition tablepiece, leading into the preoccupation with Saturn as a motif for objets d'art, was 'Obelisk Locket':


This piece was one of several obelisks fabricated whilst Phill was teaching Jewellery Fabrication at Hobart TAFE (Technical and Further Education) during the late 'eighties. It stands about 300mm tall, and is hollow-fabricated from gilding metal and sterling silver, with gold leaf and an 'upset' sapphire. The surface has been given a bronzing patination, influenced by a workshop given by renown British metalsmith and teacher, Michael Rowe, that Phill undertook in Perth WA in 1986.

The piece alludes to the symbols of one religion usurping those of another. The obelisk - symbol of Ra's rays - has been topped with a criciform and orb. But when the cross is removed, the leaves of the locket open to reveal a sunburst, and the symbology of Ra is restored...

The obelisk sits on four oversize balls, which are reminiscent of space hardware, and help give the piece that tension between the archaeological and the 'spacey'.

This piece, and another obelisk made at the time, were acquired by a Western Australian educational college.

Saturn Emerges from the Planets.



A pivotal piece in the emergence of Saturn as a predominant motif of Phill's work in the early 'nineties was this table container, entitled 'Reliquary for the Passing of Science Fiction'

It stood 80mm tall, and was 60mm across the 'rings'.  Hollow-fabricated, as usual, the lid lifted off to reveal the amber stem glowing up through the gold-plated interior. The 'satellites' were cabochon and 'upset' garnets set into the 'rings' of titanium.

The title of the piece was a satirical commentary on the speed of scientific development seemingly outstripping the imagination. 


Continued on the next page: Vessels for Future Medici...

DISCLAIMER: Phill's interest in these symbols is purely the excitement of the visual. He does not necessarily espouse nor embrace any meaning behind the symbol, but casts an artist's eye upon their form and motif.

Concurrent Influences and Developments.

At much the same time as the 'Obelisk Locket' was being made, Phill was also making jewellery which played with the sun as a motif. The Sun was yet another symbol in the armoury of 'power motifs'.


'Necklet of the Eclipse' used hollow, partly open forms coated with goldleaf on the interiors. The outer shells were patinated, gold-inlaid sterling silver. The titanium rope chain was something Phill was making a lot in the mid 'eighties: flame-coloured dark blue, in this instance, it was an apt 'night sky' background for the eclipse motifs. Such titanium chain had not been seen before.


Like most obelisks transported to Rome, the Quirinal Obelisk has been surmounted by Christian symbols.


'Obelisk for an Overseer' was a lidded container Phill made at the same time as the other obelisk objects. Like the symbol of the pyramid with the eye on top, this obelisk also had a stylised eye atop. It was also hollow-fabricated, patinated gilding metal, with the decorative finial being hollow-fabricated sterling silver.

Also around this time, Phill was making brooches based on a stylised Saturn. The quizzical image below is Phill modelling such a brooch at the time. ["Forgive us the sins of our past vanities..."]


The Saturn brooch was a beaten and flame-coloured titanium 'planet', surrounded by sterling silver 'rings', gold rivetted to the 'planet'. The brooch below it is from a parallel series - 'Comets'.