The Art Life walking tour part four

Art Life Jul 09, 2010 3 Comments

There’s a lot of weird stuff in Hyde Park – and some of its art. In part four of his walking tour of Sydney’s hidden art, Ian Shadwell comes face to face with some imposing stone figures…

Right in the centre of Hyde Park just down from the Archibald fountain is a lovely old relic of the 1960’s. A sandstone sculpture of three figures, rendered with a totemic, abstracted symbolism. I’ve always loved it, principally for the respect with which it treats its medium, the sandstone, which has a tremendous – how would you say it? “sand-stoney” quality, emblematic of Sydney and its bones.

If you wander up and have a closer look, you’ll notice there is a plaque there explaining the work with a straightforward vehemence lacking from contemporary wall texts. I’ll give it to you now in full, so you can enjoy its vigour.

The Labours and Beauty of Mankind as depicted by three figures Water, Fire and Earth and a flanking font.

Water- A fisherman looking to sea and new horizons

Fire – A woman depicting womanhood and intuition. Protecting the fire of initiative and progress.

Earth – A farmer depicting the pioneering efforts upon which this country has developed.

Gerard Havekes Sculptor.

Now that’s what I call a wall text. No need to worry about interpretation now. For all its naivete, I have no doubt, that there is much from our own time which will seem even more dated in fifty years (the piece was installed in February 1961).

That aside and the work to my eyes still has an attractive organic quality, the soft sandstone having been beautifully weathered, thereby enhancing the sculptor’s original lines. It catches the light beautifully with its nooks and crannies figuring the surface, just like the sandstone cliffs of Sydney harbor. The three figures merge into the one monolithic block, which rises from the surface of the park like a termite mound, or the stump of an old tree, or even the ruins of a temple, the figures themselves only being apparent after a closer inspection.

In this regard, the sculpture reveals itself with time and distance, the details pleasantly blurred from the walkway, from which it is most often viewed and then giving themselves slowly to those who choose to work across the grass and have a closer look.

Sadly, I know of no other work by Mr Gerard Havekes, but at least we have this.

Its a top little piece, warmer and more delicious by far than the stifled Freudian eroticism of the Archibald fountain. Treat yourself one day and have a sandwich in the park under its shadow

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Andrew Frost


  1. Rodney

    I for one would like to voice my support for Freudian eroticism – indeed, is there any other kind?

  2. suzanne

    I’ve always known it was there, but never really had a good look at it. It’s quite lovely.

  3. Dear Ian Shadwell
    Thank you so very much indeed for your most cogent and generous piece about my father, Gerard Havekes. We are so very proud of his work and he is has not been duly appreciated in the Australian art scene, even though he spent his life here, from the early 50’s until his passing Oct. 2011. Here is his tribute website Thank you again for your interest and appreciation. Best wishes.

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