Why a Whale Tail, and how did we get to do it?
Opportunities to work collaboratively with a fellow artist who is also a friend, on a massive Public Art project in your hometown, don’t come along very often (if at all) but that is exactly the story of the Whale Tail.
Jason Wooldridge & Cindy Poole, both with a desire to extend their arts practices into the realm of Public Art, responded to a national tender in June 2013 for the Esperance Foreshore Development Public Artwork. An expression of interest was submitted, along with fourteen applicants, with Cindy & Jason being shortlisted alongside three other established public artists, and were invited to present their concept to a selection panel. Their shared artistic vision and complementary artistic, design and technical skills helped them win the tender and work on the Esperance Whale Tail began…
Their empathy with the Esperance environment, as well as their combination of technical expertise in different mediums, gave them considerable scope for the final sculpture – with high importance placed on conceptual relevance.
The creation of the artwork required a high level of the artists’ own personal skills and craftsmanship, utilising their knowledge and expertise in the mediums of steel, wood and glass. Cindy & Jason acknowledge the work of: Airey Taylor Consulting, Jatek Engineering, Mick Kennaugh and Sime Building.
“A sculpture of a whale tail is nothing new, but what we have created is a beautiful set of linear shapes, as much about the negative space as it is the structure itself. The Southern Right Whales we see in Esperance throughout the winter often come close to shore to rest. Their behaviour is often much more reserved than that of the extrovert Humpback, viewers just catching glimpses of fins and tails. When a tail is seen, it is usually just a very graceful and mellow rise and sinking of the fluke. It is this that has been an inspiration for this sculpture. The Whale Tail is symbolic of the ocean’s importance to this area.
It was always our intention to create a beautiful structure, one that reflects some kind of natural form which connects Esperance to the ocean. At the same time we have referenced the port and history of the Jetty in the materials and the processes used. Rather than ignore the industrial nature of the port, we have chosen to embrace it and create something of beauty from industrial steel. We have deliberately used universal beam to this end. Our design uses jarrah in its central element which makes reference to the timber hulled ships that would have served the jetty and also the jetty itself. The form allows a constantly changing picture window within the negative space.
The glass provides another dimension of beauty to the artwork; capturing the qualities of the sun and the constantly changing light to give the sculpture ‘life’, and allows the form to cast light on the ground and provide other windows to view. A further connection to the natural environment is achieved within the glass by reflecting the colours of Esperance, which mirror the ocean and the sky. Each panel is a ‘skyscape’ which reference the colours witnessed when looking south to the sky for the magical Esperance sunsets, and all the subtle colours that brings. The central glass section between the wooden panels are laminated in the many colours of the aqua blues and turquoise of the ocean in this region.
Further relevance of material can be tied into the use of glass, and it’s raw material of sand – such a trademark of Esperance’s natural beauty. The shape of the tail itself may also suggest other things to viewers such as the bow of a ship. This double connection may also be made when focusing on the tapered jarrah central element which references the baleen plates of the whale and the hull of some of the ships that formed Esperance’s early shipping history. Right Whales travel vast distances in their migration journey which is echoed by the similar ocean crossing patterns of the bulk carriers transporting our exports far and wide.
It was important for our design to create the opportunity for viewers to connect instantly with our artwork yet allow them to go beyond their initial visual experience and engage at other levels with a desire to explore its form in many ways. Ultimately our intent was to present an iconic artwork that both visitors and locals would go out of their way to view, and would invoke community pride and ownership that has relevance to Esperance.
We are greatly appreciative of the people who took time to consider our initial ideas and analyse our designs, provide quotes, help us work out how to build it, help build it and make it so much easier to get the job done. It has truly been a local Esperance achievement!”