Great Garden Sketchabout #14: Canova “The Boxers” – Damoxenos

March 21, 2011


21 March 2011, dusk, 10minute ‘pre-sketch’. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. The ‘southern’ (winning) Boxer, Damoxenos, beneath a Moreton Bay Fig tree, not far from Morshead Fountain/Palace Gates/Captain Cook statue/Rose Pavilion.

Pouring rain, holding sketchbook and umbrella in one hand, pencil in the other. Stopped when pencil started sliding over wet paper! To do this properly one would, I imagine, need a manservant to hold an umbrella over one while one sketched. I was torn between this view and sitting under a canopy of vegetation (almost entirely out of the rain) to re-draw the Chorisia insignis again, to get more of the tree’s height suitable for a ‘portrait’ format, but more of that later no doubt… My Damoxenos today looks more like an evil faun than a Herculean boxer, but I am conjuring up ways to incorporate The Boxers into my Garden Sketchbook.

What I like about this vista, from a public bench nearby, is that it includes not just the two boxers (with the strong contrast between white of the statue and dark of the surrounding Moreton Bay fig tree), but an additional smaller statue in the distance, plus another bench, so there’s plenty of variety and content for the viewer to take  in in a single sketch. Speaking of which, come back tomorrow for some penwork and colour to bring out the aforesaid content rather more clearly. The contrasts between sunlit areas and deep shade are particularly vivid around 1pm, I’ve noticed, at this time of year. The photo below was taken a few days later, again at dusk but without the rain.

I should add that both Boxers were draped today in elaborate necklaces/braces made out of beautiful dark seed pods and in pandanus leaf jockstraps. It will be interesting to see how long these eco-friendly additions will stay on; someone has obviously gone to a lot of work getting the measurements right. The Boxers missed out on costume when other sculptures around town got ‘dressed’ last year as part of an art event. I’m glad to see someone else taking these two statues seriously!


Drawing even for this very short time was a blessed relief from work and work colleagues, with their snide remarks about asylum seekers on Christmas Island. Last night was the French film, Family Tree – a seminal film on The War which had to be made eventually. And speaking of the Asian theatre of that war, today was Harmony Day, though you wouldn’t know it – what with the endless round of anti-Japanese jokes about the tsunami. Racism and anti-Asian sentiment runs to the core of the Australian experience, even Asian colleagues lament the “banana effect”, being yellow on the outside and white inside.  Not helped by right-wing commentators using refugees for political ends: the look of horror on their faces when Jason Clare’s listed examples of fear-mongering by journalists down the ages. Josh Thomas’ video question in Q&A cut to the core, a splendid juxtaposition to a new app released on iPhone for curing homosexuality. I’m imagining a world where gays invented marriage, where profligate, promiscuous heterosexuals were unhappy about having to be satisfied with a second-rate civil licence, the equivalent of a dog licence. What a delightful world we live in – little wonder we seek refuge in the controlled beauty of gardens!

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