The Art of Whaling Protest.


The 'Presentation Timepiece for a Retired Whaler' , 1988, was one of Phill's early works acquired by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.


A full description of the piece appears in the box at right.

This piece followed on from another major work addressing not dissimilar issues, two years earlier. 1986 was International Year of Peace, and for the annual survey exhibition in the Craft Council of Tasmania Gallery, Phill chose to exhibit the sculpture entitled:


'Three Blades:  the Pen.., the Sword..., the Ploughshare...'

The blades were linked by the two biblical quotes; that the pen is mightier than the sword; and that swords were to be beaten into ploughshares.

The blades were wrought from titanium. The handles were polished silver-oxidised bones: a bird leg for the pen; a dolphin vertebae for the sword; and a cow rib for the plough.

The case with display fronts was especially made for the 'Three Blades...', based on the expertise Phill gained after a workshop with Ms Penny Carey-Wells, who taught at the University of Tasmania School of Art on all things to do with paper, bookbinding, etc.

In that International Year of Peace, Phill was awarded the 'Mobil (Australia) Award for Excellence in Craft, for this sculpture.


In 1988 Phill embarked upon a series of small sculptures to further comment upon the nature of whaling.  All these pieces used whalebone rib sections combined with sterling silver, gold-rivetted titanium, and garnets.             


'Harpoons and Wounds' (left) and 'Flensers'


'Blubberhooks' and two 'Harpoon' brooches.


'Pandora's Ossuary'


'Leviathon', 1992, a penultimate statement about whales and whaling: the polished, silver-oxidised section of vertebrae takes on an anthropomorphic stance, replete with symbology of sexuality, depicted in coral and pearls, and power, the titanium 'helmet' reminiscent of a vintage submarine's rammer; pierced by harpoons, flensers and blubberhook, from which dangle slices of tooth. Height: about 200mm. Collection of sculptor Stephen Walker, Tasmania.


These pieces were Phill's entry in the City of Hobart Art Award, 1997. The chopsticks were made from whalebone, 18k gold, and garnets. The chopstick rest was based on bloodstone... The baton was made from balleen (the filtering cartilege from a whale's throat) and sterling silver.          


'Chopsticks for the Consumption of Whalemeat'


'Baton for Conducting Whalesong'

Watching for retirement...

 'Presentation Timepiece for a Retired Whaler' was made in 1988 as a pointed and satirical commentary on the archaic nature of whaling.

Time was, when a man retired from a lifetime's work, he was presented with a gold watch. By making the presentation timepiece a pocket sundial, Phill intended to underscore how outdated the activity of whaling was. Little did he know that nearly two decades later, killing whales would still be undertaken...


The pocket sundial actually works, and is accurate to about ten or fifteen minutes. The enquirer of the Time simply holds the sundial facing north (ie here in the southern hemisphere, at least) and rotates it back to correspond roughly to their latitude. So, here in Tasmania, it would be angled back to about 41 or 42 degrees from horizontal, and then the shadow cast by the gnomon is read off the alidade. It is calibrated to reveal the time from 4am to 8pm.


The alidade is a slice of cut and polished sperm whale tooth; the gnomon is space-age titanium.

The alidade hinges open to reveal a goldleaf-coated container.It is kept closed by pressure on the gnomon when the two outer shell are locked closed.


The entire piece takes the form of a fob chain and albert, with the two extremes holding a cruciform and the timepiece. The chain is a combination of simple titanium and hollow-fabricated sterling silver chenier. The cruciform and timepiec are set with garnets, symbolising spilled blood.


The 'albert' was a decorative addition on fob chains (named in honour of Prince Albert) which hung on display over the stomach.   Phill made this albert in the form of a nef, which was a decorative hanging ship-motif, especially popular in Rennaissance times. The 'boat' is again made of whale tooth, with a titanium sail/blade menacing a pearl.


'Blade and Bladder'

The pearl opposing the blade was a further development of the brooch: 'Blade and Bladder', made the previous year, in 1987, and shares its concerns. 'Blade and Bladder' was judged the overall winner in the Australian Jewellers Association Tasmanian Jewellery Design Awards, 1987; The Mercury Newspaper, Hobart, reported that "The De Beers representative on the judging panel, Ms Lousje Brugman of Sydney, yesterday praised Mr Mason's winning brooch for its innovative design and superb craftsmanship. Ms Brugman said she was delighted by the range and standard this year, and welcomed the entries from non-traditional jewellers, of whom Mr Mason is one."





'Cane for Striking Toads', a stick that ostensibly addresses the menace of the Cane Toad in Australia; but which also has a lovely Victorian  allegorical ring to it... 1992, about a metre long.

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