Shadow Boxer Catalogue

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MAITLAND REGIONAL ART GALLERY ACKNOWLEDGES THE WONNARUA PEOPLE, THE TRADITIONAL CUSTODIANS AND OWNERS OF THE LAND. WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE UNBROKEN C O N N E C T I O N T O C O U N T R Y, C U LT U R E A N D C O M M U N I T Y A N D W E E X T E N D T H I S R E S P E C T TO A L L A B O R I G I N A L A N D TO R R E S ST R A I T I S L A N D E R P E O P L E W H O V I S I T A N D E N G A G E W I T H T H E G A L L E RY.



NIGEL MILSOM

Judo-House part 9 (birdland) [detail], 2021



SHADOW BOXER

M A I T L A N D R E G I O N A L A R T G A L L E RY

Karla Dickens Blak Douglas Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir Keri Glastonbury Richard Lewer David Matthews Fiona McMonagle Nigel Milsom Michael Willson Les darcy



FOREWORD

PAG E . 7.

BY G E R RY B O B S I E N

At the end of the day this is a hurting business It’s hard not to ignore the basic premise of pugilism. Lace up a glove. Punch something. More often than not, in the training gyms of Australia, this is a bag or a sparring partner. But for some, there is still the lure of lights, spectacle, the conquest of winning and participation in a sport that has long held the attention of punters and artists alike. Shadow Boxer brings together artists with more than a fleeting interest in the sport. And while Les Darcy, the ‘Maitland Wonder’ is a significant part of Australian boxing history and the history of our town, this exhibition gave us the opportunity to present a wider look at the cultural phenomenon of boxing in Australia, providing new context for objects and artwork held in the Gallery’s collection. In the leadup to this exhibition there were many conversations from unlikely sparring partners with connections made between art, the discipline and grit of boxing and the celebration of champion fighters like Dave Sands and Les Darcy. The voice of artist Karla Dickens is a powerful force in Shadow Boxer. She raises her gloves high to all First Nations boxers bringing us closer to narratives of championship, pride and exploitation with a thread that runs through to the present. UK writer David Matthews was an instrumental conversationalist from afar as we embarked on this project, as was the voice of Bianca Elmir who kept it real as a professional boxer making her way toward a world ranking fight. These generous conversations helped inform the way we put this exhibition together and the ambitious installation created by Richard Lewer. Despite all of its ‘hurting business’, boxing gives us stories of grit, salvation, championship and physical determination. Step into any PCYC or small boxing gym across the country and these stories are everywhere, and for the artists of Shadow Boxer, these stories continue to provide rich material and motivation for creative endeavour. KARLA DICKENS

Pound-for-pound #3, 2019


E S S AY

PAG E . 8 .

BY WESLEY ENOCH

by Wesley Enoch WHEN I WAS GROWING UP MY ABORIGINAL FATHER WOULD TALK OF DAVE SANDS AS IF HE LIVED AROUND THE CORNER, THAT ELLEY BENNETT WAS A DEAR OLD FRIEND AND LIONEL ROSE WAS BE ST MAN AT HIS WEDDING. NONE OF THE SE THINGS WERE TRUE BUT IT SPOKE OF AN AFFECTION AND PRIDE T HAT WENT BEYOND THE SPORT OF BOXING AND DUG DEEP INTO A FIGHTING SPIRIT NEEDED TO EMPOWER FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE DURING A TIME OF GREAT STRUGGLE.

Sport and Art are two great vehicles through which First Nations Australians have historically gained public recognition. The names come easily as we think about Indigenous Art and Sporting role models through the ages – Albert Namatjira, Catherine Freeman, Nova Peris, Adam Goodes, Bob Maza, Jack Davis, Justine Saunders, Deborah Mailman, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Nicky Winwar, Evonne Goolagong, Ash Barty, Patty Mills, Tracey Moffatt, John Moriarty and many many more. Even some great Aboriginal political leaders have found public profiles through their artistic and sporting prowess – think of Doug Nicholls, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Charlie Perkins, and Gary Foley. Today, Sport and Arts are often seen as non-threatening ways to build inclusion and participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The last 20 years has seen an explosion of football, movie and TV megastars adding to the constellation of Visual Arts luminaries, musical icons and performing legends, the growth of Indigenous political leadership and our greater participation in the broader society. But, in many ways boxing was the starting point for all this advancement and led the way for Aboriginal people to showcase their talents and build a greater acceptance and understanding for the plight of our people.


E S S AY

PAG E . 9 .

BY WESLEY ENOCH

BOXING TENTS In the 19th century, Australia inherited the English appetite for touring entertainments which would manifest through pop up tent villages, schools of arts, mechanics institutes, civic halls and private homes. Opera, ballet, vaudeville, bawdy humour, circus acts, curios and curiosities would tour the country as a way of bringing culture and entertainment to the colonial settlements. Travelling shows and carnivals became a regular occurrence with the remnants still observed in the Royal Agricultural Shows of today. Many of these shows included locals in competitive events from bake offs, best produce and livestock prizes through to foot races, eisteddfods and shows of strength. The English had developed the notion of the prizefight where spectators would bet against the outcome of a public fight and it became popular in Australia to pit a “house fighter” against the local challenger. The “boxing tents” were part vaudeville part exhibition with a range of “acts” to entertain and titillate the audience. It was not unusual to see exotic dancers, contortionists, animals or comedy acts as a precursor to the main event where a series of fights would be held. It is believed that the image of the boxing kangaroo comes from this

time where a kangaroo would be placed in a display match against a “house fighter” or “challenger”. The boxing tents were a place where the usual rules were turned on their head, where a boss could be punched by a worker with impunity, where the naughty was tolerated and the shocking acceptable. A place to prove yourself in front of your mates and in many ways show your dominance. For many, being a “house fighter” in the boxing tents was an attractive way to earn money, travel the country and escape the status quo. For Indigenous people the boxing tents allowed certain freedoms they could only dream of in a world controlled by the Protector and the different state Protection Acts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The boxing tents rewarded them for their skills and strength and helped them build an independence in a world that insisted on oppressing them; a world hell bent on “smoothing the dying pillow”. I can only imagine what it would have felt like for a Blakfulla in that time to shape up against the local white bully and be given permission to punch him until he gave up, begged for mercy or you knocked him out.


E S S AY

PAG E . 1 0 .

BY WESLEY ENOCH

UP THE LADDER I’ve had the pleasure of working on Up The Ladder, by playwright and ex-boxing tent fighter Roger Bennett, twice in my career and have been immersed in the power and meaning of the boxing tents to Indigenous contemporary political and social advancement. Roger Bennett, the son of Elley Bennett, grew up surrounded by the world of the boxing tents, its community and traditions and created Up The Ladder as a tribute to his father’s rise to fame as a boxing champion in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. The title Up The Ladder refers to the act of climbing up the ladder to the platform outside the tent where the referee/spruiker would encourage locals to sign up to fight, but also the notion of climbing the ladder to success and social acceptance. The story of Elley Bennett is one of long separations from family and community, incredible wins and devastating professional and personal losses. Stories abound of champions refusing to fight him because of the colour of his skin, the Queensland government refusing to pay him his winnings which were held by the state run Aborigines Welfare Fund and eventually dying of pneumonia penniless at the age of 57 after a run of public drunkenness charges and family tragedy.

But Elley Bennett is remembered as a champion as he and the likes of Lionel Rose and Dave Sands showed that there was a world in which Indigenous people could be strong, triumphant winners. Boxing has become a sign of ambition and achievement for First Nations Australians and demonstrates a history of fighting against oppression. It’s a natural extension of the traditional ideas of “warrior”, going from battling the enemy on the field to the boxing ring where your people can observe and support you. Where you don’t just win for yourself but act as a champion for a host of people like you, their representative of sorts. There is a theatre to the encounter where the underdog can rise up against a dominant force and prevail. Boxing is used in many communities to assist young people to find the discipline of their body and mind and help shape their sense of determination. The work of boxing legend Tony Mundine and his gym in Redfern created not just a place to train champions but also a beloved place to grow successful humans, and the work of Tribal Warrior through their Clean Slate Without Prejudice Program continues to use boxing to help young people take charge of their lives and stay

out of police custody. Boxing and its champions have been a constant source of pride and agency for First Nations people and has its origins in the boxing tents of the 20th century. Many champions became iconic household names that are uttered with reverence and the familiarity of old friends. Boxing tents were one of the first places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gained acceptance and paved the way for later developments. Cultural and political advancement came from the ability to transcend the rules and regulations that governed Indigenous lives and promote alternatives to the passivity prescribed by the managers of missions and reserves. When times got tough seeing a champion win gave you strength to fight on in your own way. Boxing gave hope and freedoms, forever cementing the memory of boxing champions in our Halls of Fame. The modern boxing tents have succumbed to safety concerns and regulations but a version can still be seen in Queensland and Northern Territory. Fred Brophy’s Boxing Troupe is a 4th generation enterprise that can still be seen touring in tents and inviting locals to come up the ladder to take on the champion.


E S S AY

PAG E . 1 1 .

BY WESLEY ENOCH

SHADOW BOXING The term ‘shadow boxing’ has a very Jungian edge and leads to the idea of repressed or projected fear and aggression. Shadow boxing refers to a training regime where you practise your moves and reactions against an imagined opponent that takes the shape of your own shadow, in a way to fight with the darker reflection of yourself. Jung says that the shadow is the subconscious and hidden part of who we are, the side of ourselves we do not recognise or wish to address. The shadow can also be a place of deep instincts and creativity that can be a rewarding source of inspiration to be unleashed when we require new solutions to old unsuccessful patterns of behaviour. In many ways White Australia is constantly shadow boxing with its history and First Peoples, refusing to accept the knowledges and practices that could lead it to a better ongoing relationship with the Land. This deep collective psychological repression of White Australia’s fears leads us again and again into an antagonistic fight over our national narrative. Until Australia can move beyond this ultimately self-defeating battle there is very little hope of escaping the constant slugging it out we seem to be caught in. A multi-round endurance melee that leaves both sides bloodied and bruised. Indigenous Australia is the “shadow” the country should embrace rather than fight. So beat the drum and ring the bell, and perhaps we can find a way to climb up the ladder together.


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 1 2 .

KARLA DICKENS List of work

M S R E A DY A N D M R W I L L I N G

POUND-FOR-POUND #4

(right) 2019, edition 1/3 inkjet print, 180 × 120cm Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2020

2019, mixed media 198 × 41 × 41cm

PIN-UP

POUND-FOR-POUND #7

2019, mixed media 168 × 41 × 41cm

2019, edition 2/20, collage print, 58 × 40.8cm Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2020

POUND-FOR-POUND #9

POUND 4 POUND

2019, mixed media 160 × 41 × 41cm

2019, edition 2/20 collage print, 58 × 48.3cm Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2020 POUND-FOR-POUND #2

2019, mixed media 196 × 41 × 41cm POUND-FOR-POUND #3

2019, mixed media 161 × 41 × 41cm Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2020

2019, mixed media 172 × 41 × 41cm POUND-FOR-POUND #10

S C A F F O L D PA N E L #6, #9 & #11

2019, inkjet print on PVC with brass eyelets, edition 3 135 × 200cm Courtesy the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane. Photographer: Mick Richards

KARLA DICKENS



SHADOW BOXER

Pin-up, 2019

PAG E . 1 4 .

KARLA DICKENS


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 1 5 .

KARLA DICKENS

Pound 4 pound, 2019


SHADOW BOXER

Pound-for-pound #2, 2019

PAG E . 1 6 .

Pound-for-pound #4, 2019

KARLA DICKENS

Pound-for-pound #9, 2019


SHADOW BOXER

Pound-for-pound #10, 2019

PAG E . 1 7.

Pound-for-pound #7, 2019

KARLA DICKENS

Pound-for-pound #3, 2019


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 1 8 .

KARLA DICKENS


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 1 9 .

KARLA DICKENS

Scaffold Panel #11, 2019

Scaffold Panel #6, 2019

Scaffold Panel #9, 2019


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 2 0 .

BLAK DOUGLAS List of work SANDS AND STONES M AY B R E A K M Y B O N E S

concept design for large scale mural, commissioned by Maitland Regional Art Gallery 2021, 240 × 480cm Courtesy the artist

BLAK DOUGLAS


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 2 1 .

BLAK DOUGLAS


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 2 2 .

BIANCA ‘BAM BAM’ ELMIR B I A N C A E L M I R — F I G H T I N G & FA I T H

2017, digital photograph Photographer: Lisa Maree Williams Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

BIANCA ELMIR


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 2 3 .

BIANCA ELMIR


INTERVIEW

PAG E . 2 4 .

BY G E R RY B O B S I E N & BIANCA ELMIR

BIANCA ‘BAM BAM’ ELMIR

Interview Gerry Bobsien Bianca Elmir

OVER THE PAST YEAR, A SERIE S OF CONVERSATIONS TOOK PLACE WITH B I A N C A E L M I R T H AT B E G A N W I T H A L L T H E B R AVA D O O F A S C H E D U L E D WORLD RANKING FIGHT AND DEVELOPED MONTHS LATER TO THE TOPIC OF L I F E A F T E R B O X I N G . 2 0 2 0 W A S A S T R A N G E Y E A R , A N D F O R AT H L E T E S , I T P R E S E N T E D J U S T A S M U C H O F A C H A L L E N G E A S I T D I D F O R A R T I ST S . BIANCA ELMIR EMBRACES HER SPORT FOR THE EMPOWERMENT IT BRINGS H E R . S H E U S E S B O X I N G A S A P L AT F O R M F O R A R A N G E O F P U R P O S E S L E V E R AG I N G H E R C O M M U N I T Y D E V E LO P M E N T W O R K , H E R I D E N T I T Y A S A M U S L I M W O M A N A N D W O R K W I T H D I S A D VA N TA G E D Y O U N G P E O P L E . SHE IS REMARKABLY DRIVEN, PASSIONATE AND ARTICULATE WITH THE SAME DRIVE TO WIN AS ANY ATHLETE WORKING AT HER LEVEL.


INTERVIEW

PAG E . 2 5 .

B I A N C A , D O E S B O X I N G M A K E Y O U O P E R AT E AT A H E I G H T E N E D L E V E L O F F O C U S ? D A V E M A T T H E W S T A L K S A B O U T B E I N G ‘A L L - I N ’ W I T H T H I S S P O R T. W H AT D O E S T H I S M E A N FOR YOU?

You def initely go into some primal space. You can have a very scientific training methodology, but this means nothing unless you tap into some kind of animal within yourself to win. You have to find an inner hunger and there’s not many spaces in life where you’re called on to do that. It can be addictive – that whole cycle of preparation, training and then the fight. Having the project in front of you and then going for it. It’s liberating, it’s raw and you can’t fake it. It calls on the most stoic aspects of my nature and I love that about the process. It’s intense and pushes you to the brink so you learn all sorts of things about yourself as you gain resilience.

I’M INTERESTED IN THE IDEA YOU MENTIONED ABOUT BOXING G I V I N G YO U T H E F R E E D O M T O P R E S E N T T H E M A S C U L I N E WITHIN YOU. W H AT D O Y O U M E A N B Y T H I S ?

I find it extremely liberating as a woman to express my own masculinity in this sport and I don’t shy away from the fact that boxing gives me permission to tap into a part of myself that doesn’t get called on in normal life. Boxing is technical and defensive but at the end of the day, extremely physical. If I’ve hit someone with force, then it’s a good day in the office. This is a place where two athletes with consent are equal and in the same weight division. But this core aspect of the sport – punching someone in the face, sits as a complete paradox to my broader life where I’ve been educated in community development and participate in the community as a social worker. I embrace this paradox. Being able to call on that rawest part of myself in a competitive sport feels good.

BY G E R RY B O B S I E N & BIANCA ELMIR

L E T ’ S TA L K A B O U T T H E S P E C TA C L E O F B O X I N G – W H AT ’ S G O I N G O N I N YO U R H E A D A S YO U WALK TOWARDS THE RING?

There is nothing like it. I walk in and I might catch a view of my face on the big screen as they announce me. There’s so much pressure in that moment and I’m just trying to relax and breathe. The crowd is screaming, and I can hear the sound of a few familiar voices, family or people I know. Then I look across the ring and see her face. I just try and stay focused – I focus on the first round only. I think of my coach and what I will lead with. Then I see the ringman and we make eye contact. It’s getting close, he’s announcing my record, the crowd is getting even more excited and then I step into the ring, do the stare down with my opponent, the bell goes, and everything falls away. Everything goes silent for me – the crowd may be screaming but I’m laser focused. There’s just my coach inside my head and my own sense of self belief that I am better than the boxer moving in front of me. T H E P A N D E M I C H A S R E A L LY D I S R U P T E D Y O U R F L O W A S A N AT H L E T E . YO U ’ V E M E N T I O N E D RETIRING. HOW DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL NOW?

I was meant to be in a world championship fight and the dates shifted so many times during 2020. This was exhausting because everything you do leads up to that one date in the schedule. It’s really hard to pick up and start again. I’ve started to think about retiring now and what this could look like and that’s really conflicting emotionally. I think I’ll have to go through a grieving period first before I can get to the liberating feeling. Being an athlete has meant I’ve been on the periphery of society. I’ve turned down so many opportunities for work and really just made ends meet to get to the top of my game. Now I’m toying with the idea of being a normal person! I’m really excited to be able to give back to my community in other ways and explore new challenges and work.


SHADOW BOXER SONNET I

PAG E . 2 6 .

BY K E R I G L A STO N B U RY

KERI GLASTONBURY


SHADOW BOXER SONNET I

PAG E . 2 7.

BY K E R I G L A STO N B U RY


SHADOW BOXER SONNET II

PAG E . 2 8 .

BY K E R I G L A STO N B U RY


SHADOW BOXER SONNET II

PAG E . 2 9 .

BY K E R I G L A STO N B U RY

KERI GLASTONBURY


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 3 0 .

RICHARD LEWER List of work

SKILL, DISCIPLINE, TRAINING

(right), 2021, enamel on reverse mirror 180 × 110cm SKILL, DISCIPLINE, TRAINING

(stills), 2021, video, 4:05 minutes filmed and edited by Mike Metzner SKILL, DISCIPLINE, TRAINING

2021, acrylic on steel 150 × 38cm each Courtesy Hugo Michell Gallery Photographer: Andrew Curtis

RICHARD LEWER



SHADOW BOXER

Skill, discipline, training (stills), 2021

PAG E . 3 2 .

RICHARD LEWER


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 3 3 .

RICHARD LEWER


SHADOW BOXER

Skill, discipline, training, 2021

PAG E . 3 4 .

RICHARD LEWER


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 3 5 .

RICHARD LEWER


SHADOW BOXER

Skill, discipline, training, 2021

PAG E . 3 6 .

RICHARD LEWER


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 3 7.

RICHARD LEWER

Richard Lewer in his studio, 2021


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 3 8 .

DAVID MATTHEWS DAVID MATTHEWS IS A LONDON BASED WRITER WHO LIVED THE LIFE OF A BOXER AFTER WITNE S SING A FIGHT IN 1998 THAT CHALLENGED THE COMPLICITY OF HIS ROLE AS OBSERVER I N T H E S P E C TA C L E .

D AV I D M AT T H E W S


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 3 9 .

D AV I D M AT T H E W S

In my role as reporter I had witnessed men and women at ringside behave like animals and thought little of it. Yet in any other context I would have zero tolerance for the same conduct. In the cauldron of emotions that is the boxing arena, I somehow accepted that racism, bigotry, intimidation and violence came with the territory. I felt mildly ashamed that I could be so hypocritical about my feelings. I also felt disturbed by the pleasure I derived from watching men fight and my inability to reconcile this pleasure with whatever principles I held as a human being. I concluded that if I was not part of the solution, I was part of the problem. Whether inside or outside the prize ring, boxing exploited people like me — working class blacks, white-trash, the rednecks, the browned off.1 After this fight, Matthews took up a new life with a boxing trainer, stepped inside the ring and embarked on a two-year journey that formed the basis for his book. David has much to say about boxing and all its motivations. His training and first professional fight as a boxer also taught him more about the sport and its culture than he imagined. David is present in Shadow Boxer, despite being locked down in London and Barbados, through spirited discussions with artist Richard Lewer and Bianca Elmir and in conversation through the exhibitions digital program.

1

David Matthews: Looking for a Fight: How a writer took on the boxing world – from the inside, Headline, 2005


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 4 0 .

FIONA MCMONAGLE List of work UNTITLED

(right) 2014, watercolour and ink on paper, 29.5 × 21cm UNTITLED

2014, watercolour and ink on paper, 40 × 37cm UNTITLED

2014, watercolour and ink on paper, 39.5 × 38.5cm WONKY

2014, watercolour and ink on paper, 182 × 57cm On loan from the collection of Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Purchased from the 2016 National Works on Paper with funds from the Mornington Peninsula Shire MISHA

2014, watercolour and ink on paper, 182 × 57cm Courtesy the artist, Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide

FIONA MCMONAGLE



SHADOW BOXER

Untitled, 2014

PAG E . 4 2 .

FIONA MCMONAGLE


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 4 3 .

FIONA MCMONAGLE

Untitled, 2014


SHADOW BOXER

Wonky, 2014

PAG E . 4 4 .

FIONA MCMONAGLE


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 4 5 .

FIONA MCMONAGLE

Mischa, 2014


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 4 6 .

NIGEL MILSOM List of work

J U D O - H O U S E PA R T 9 ( B I R D L A N D )

(right) 2021, oil on linen 180 × 125cm, Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2021 J U D O - H O U S E PA R T 9 ( B I R D L A N D )

2021, oil on linen, 180 × 95cm On loan from private collection J U D O - H O U S E PA R T 9 ( B I R D L A N D )

2021, oil on linen, 190 × 215cm J U D O - H O U S E PA R T 9 ( B I R D L A N D )

2021, oil on linen, 180 × 125cm J U D O - H O U S E PA R T 9 ( B I R D L A N D )

2021, oil on linen, 80.5 × 107.5cm J U D O - H O U S E PA R T 9 ( B I R D L A N D )

2021, oil on linen, 195 × 195cm Courtesy The Commercial, Sydney Photographer: Nick De Lorenzo

NIGEL MILSOM



SHADOW BOXER

Judo-House part 9 (birdland), 2021

PAG E . 4 8 .

NIGEL MILSOM


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 4 9 .

NIGEL MILSOM

Judo-House part 9 (birdland), 2021


SHADOW BOXER

Judo-House part 9 (birdland), 2021

PAG E . 5 0 .

NIGEL MILSOM


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 5 1 .

NIGEL MILSOM

Judo-House part 9 (birdland), 2021


SHADOW BOXER

Judo-House part 9 (birdland), 2021

PAG E . 5 2 .

NIGEL MILSOM


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 5 3 .

NIGEL MILSOM


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 5 4 .

MICHAEL WILLSON List of work

COMPLEMENTING HER P H YS I CA L T R A I N I N G , H A R R I S AT T E N D S T O H E R M E N TA L P R E P A R AT I O N

A MASSIVE ROAR FILLS THE ARENA AS HARRIS ENTERS

(right) 2019, digital photograph

THEN COMES THE FOURTHROUND KNOCKOUT BLOW

AFTER REFINING HER TRAINING METHODS, HARRIS HAS LEARNT NOT TO S W E AT T H E S M A L L S T U F F

2019, digital photograph T H E H A R R I S C A M P TA K E A MOMENT TO REGROUP

2019, digital photograph

2019, digital photograph

2019, digital photograph HARRIS AND COACH FA R I S C H E VA L I E R F O C U S O N W H AT ’ S A H E A D

2019, digital photograph Images courtesy the artist and AFL Media

MICHAEL WILLSON



SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 5 6 .

After refining her training methods, Harris has learnt not to sweat the small stuff, 2019

The Harris camp take a moment to regroup, 2019

MICHAEL WILLSON


SHADOW BOXER

PAG E . 5 7.

MICHAEL WILLSON

A massive roar fills the arena as Harris enters, 2019

Then comes the fourth-round knockout blow, 2019


MICHAEL WILLSON

Harris and coach Faris Chevalier focus on what’s ahead, 2019



THE MAITLAND WONDER

PAG E . 6 0 .

BY C H E RY L FA R R E L L


THE MAITLAND WONDER

The Maitland Wonder Les Darcy is Maitland’s most famous sporting hero. Born near Maitland in 1895, by 1915 aged nineteen, his name, boxing prowess and wide smile were recognised around the world. He became an outstanding figure, renowned, not only for his prowess in the ring, but for his personal qualities as well... his career was outstanding and sensational in every way, reading more like fiction than fact.1 – Dave Smith – Australian Heavyweight Champion and trainer to Les Darcy

[The] Maitlander may be one of those freaks of nature that spring up but once in a generation.2 – Jeff Smith – Champion Middleweight Boxer, USA, and Les Darcy opponent

PAG E . 6 1 .

L E S DA R CY S TAT S

BO R N : . .. . 31 O C TO B E R 1 895 DI E D:.... . . . . ..... 2 4 M AY 1 91 7 HEIGHT: . . . . ..............1 68 C M REACH : . . . . . ..............1 8 0C M * *MORE THAN HIS HEIGHT!

PH YS I Q U E :

“Shoulders, arms and neck of tremendous power…a jaw so set he could never be knocked out”3 – DR JAMES JOSEPH HOLLYWOOD, MAITLAND.

STA N C E : O RT H O D OX B O UTS:... 5 0 * * NEVER WON:.......46 KNOCKED LO ST:........ 4* * OUT! KO S : . . ......29

BY C H E RY L FA R R E L L


THE MAITLAND WONDER

PAG E . 6 2 .

TRAINING TO The Fighter BE CHAMPIOn becomes the Boxer IT ALL BEGAN IN WALKING D I S TA N C E F R O M M A I T L A N D R E G I O N A L A R T G A L L E RY

Les Darcy was the second eldest of ten children, in a struggling Irish-Catholic family that lived in and around Maitland his entire life. From a young age, the young man became responsible for supporting his family, leaving school in 1907 aged twelve to work in various physically demanding jobs. It was a time when boxing was a popular sport, some have described it as the ‘Golden Age’ of boxing,4 and it became a crowd-drawing form of entertainment with high earnings attainable for both boxers and promoters. The young Les Darcy had shown some promise in local bare-fisted contests so he seized all opportunities to improve his boxing skills with the hope of earning winnings to help his family out of hardship. He trained in Lorn under Mick Hawkins (with whom he formed a lifelong bond) and took lessons from local boxing champions. His natural ability was enhanced by his strength, forged by his work as an apprentice blacksmith for Bill Ford in Melbourne Street, East Maitland. He tried his luck against tent boxers at the Maitland Showground, and his first ‘professional’ fights were in front of local crowds at the Maitland Town Hall and Andrews Stadium behind the Currency Lass – both venues just opposite the newly built Maitland Technical College building, which is now Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

Darcy was only 18 when he first stepped into the ‘big time’ ring of Baker’s Stadium in Sydney: History was made on Saturday night, July 18 at the Rushcutters Bay Stadium. It was packed as never packed before, for the match between Les Darcy, the Maitland hero of the ring, and Fritz Holland, the American, unbeaten in this country…Not only was every seat taken, but crowds stood in the passageways in all parts of the house…Special trains from NewcastleMaitland brought hundreds of supporters, and these, with their effervescing enthusiasm, were in evidence in all parts. …A crowd of about 2000 people stood in the street, unable to secure admittance through

BY C H E RY L FA R R E L L

“the house” being packed….The mightiest cheer yet heard at the Stadium heralded the arrival of Darcy and his retinue of handlers at 8:50pm. It was enough to un-nerve an old campaigner; but evidently this youngster has no nerves. He smiled merrily like a big boy, and waved his hand here, there and everywhere to his chums he saw about. Fritz Holland followed almost in his wake, though his entry to the arena was almost unnoticed.5 Solar Plexus (aka William Lawless) boxing writer

Always in Darcy’s corner were

Mick Hawkins, and family friend Father Coady and the thousands of supporters from Maitland and Newcastle. Behind the ropes were the stadium owners who were to profit greatly from the young boxer’s prowess and popularity. In the opposite corner were boxing champions from Australia and overseas – almost all of whom faced defeat by the charming but powerful Maitland boxer.

SEE LES DARCY’S GLOVES, FOB WATCH, VIOLIN & PRAYER BOOK IN THE MAITLAND REGIONAL ART GALLERY COLLECTION


THE MAITLAND WONDER

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‘To Les Darcy, from Dave Smith as a memento of his brilliant victory over Eddie McGoorty 31st July 1915.’

1915 – A Winning Punch and the Golden Watch …in the short space of eighteen months the Maitland Boy has lifted himself from the position of an unknown to a champion. He is undoubtedly the sensation of the fighting world. His progress has been meteoric. His years and performances make him the finest middleweight of all times.6 – The New York Police Gazette, 1915

Les Darcy, The World’s Middleweight King at nineteen years of Age, the smiling Australian who trounced the Famed McGoorty.7 – The Referee, 1915

BY C H E RY L FA R R E L L

His big wins and good-natured sportsmanship made him a hero to his Australian fans and tens of thousands of lapel buttons featuring his smiling face were purchased and worn proudly. In 1915 Les Darcy was a young Australian man who had become the nation’s most famous sportsman. 1915 was a turning point in Les Darcy’s career. He had faced many of the world’s best boxers and the win in July, with a knockout result against the ‘unbeatable’ American boxing champion Eddie McGoorty, positioned the young fighter as the world’s best. In honour of this victory, Darcy’s mentor and trainer Dave Smith presented Darcy with a gold fob watch with the engraved sentiments:

In 1915 young Australian men were losing their lives on far away WWI battlefields such as Gallipoli. Les Darcy became the focus of intense public pressure to support the war effort and to enlist – however he required parental permission as he was under twenty-one, which his mother would not provide. In 1915 Billy Hughes, the Australian Prime Minister, was building support for a conscription referendum, which could soon force Darcy’s hand.


THE MAITLAND WONDER

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The Last Round

A Fight to the Finish…then the Knock-out

“IT WAS IN THE SUNNIEST H O U R O F H I S C A R E E R T H AT DARCY’S SHIP HIT THE UNSEEN ROCK AND THE B I L L O W S E N G U L F E D H I M ”. 8

Les Darcy’s story began to unravel on the evening of 27th October 1916, just before his twenty first birthday, when he illegally stowed away on a ship leaving Stockton to travel to the USA. His intent was to avoid compulsory conscription put forward by Prime Minister Hughes in the referendum on the 28th of October (the referendum was narrowly defeated) and to formally claim the World Title by competing on the American stage.

BY C H E RY L FA R R E L L

To tell you the truth… I did not want to go to the war just then and I don’t think anybody else in my position would want to go either… I have a chance of settling my family on their feet for the rest of their lives, and can do it in a short time, then I don’t care what becomes of me, I’ll go to the front but I think I would be a bigger kur if I went to the front and left a starving family at home, and the British Army wouldn’t miss me for a few months.9 Les Darcy, 1917

In the short time that Les Darcy was in the USA he faced obstacles, personal, political and business, that prevented him from ever competing in a championship fight. There were personal attacks in the media, where he was labelled a shirker, deserter and a criminal. These attacks “wound their tendrils around the heart of this strong young man.” 10 Most of the vitriol was fed by the Sydney promoters that Darcy had abandoned at a time when they needed their most popular drawcard to keep business afloat.


THE MAITLAND WONDER

Aged 21, just five months after arriving in the USA Les Darcy fell ill and died in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Beside his bed were people he loved the most, his sweetheart Winnie O’Sullivan who had arrived just hours earlier and his closest friend from Maitland, Mick Hawkins.

Strong Men Wept Upon his death public opinion of the young boxer turned and he was returned home from America as a fallen hero, reminiscent of the many young men who had lost their lives at war. Hundreds of thousands bore witness to this sorrowful return – lining the streets of the cities of San Francisco, Sydney and Maitland.

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The Verdict S I N C E H I S D E AT H M O R E THAN ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO LES DARCY’S LEGACY REMAINS.

He is remembered in his hometown of Maitland with plaques, a statue, graveside monument, street names and exhibitions at Maitland Regional Art Gallery. His story has been retold over the decades: in books, magazine and newspaper articles, a long running comic strip by Peter James in the Sydney Daily Mirror 1946–1947 and a song. He has been celebrated as a boxing great by the sporting world; on the painted canvas panels of Australian tent boxing troupes, inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (1985),

METAL PLAQUE PRESENTED TO MICK HAWKINS BY THE SPORTSMEN OF SAN FRANCISCO, TO ACCOMPANY DARCY’S CASKET ON THE SEA JOURNEY HOME TO AUSTRALIA.

FOLLOW THE LIFE STORY OF THE MAITLAND BOY’S METEORIC RISE TO WORLD CHAMPION AND ENDS IN A CRUEL FALL. 11 in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection

BY C H E RY L FA R R E L L

the International Boxing Hall of Fame (1993), the World Boxing Hall of Fame (1998), the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame (2003) and the Maitland City Council Hall of Fame (2016). His story is preserved for future generations with items both personal and peripheral held in the collections of museums including the National Museum of Australia, the Australian Sports Museum and Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

1 Dave Smith, introduction to Francis J. Ferry, The Life Story of Les Darcy, 1935, p. 4. MRAG Collection. 2 The Referee 4/8/1915, clipping from the Sunday Telegraph editors’ boxing scrapbook for 1914-1915. MRAG Collection. 3 Dr J. Hollywood, Darcy family physician, quoted in Ruth Park and Rafe Champion, Home Before Dark, Penguin, Ringwood VIC, 1995, p.53. MRAG Collection. 4 Raymond Swanwick, Les Darcy: the legend, champion of champions, Topmill Press, Marrickville, 1994, p. 5. MRAG Collection. 5 Solar Plexus, “Les Darcy beaten in twenty fighting rounds by Fritz Holland”, The Referee, 22/7/1914, clipping from the Sunday Telegraph editors’ boxing scrapbook for 1914-1915. MRAG Collection. 6 “Some piquant Americanisms – something new about Les Darcy, the Boxer”, The New York Police Gazette quoted by Solar Plexus, The Referee, 20/10/1915, available online 22/4/2021: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ article/129352004?searchTerm=les%20darcy 7 The Referee 4/8/1915, clipping from the Sunday Telegraph editors’ boxing scrapbook for 1914-1915. MRAG Collection. 8 ‘Our American Letter: Les Darcy’s Pathetic Death”, Douglas Erskine, The Referee, 4/7/1917. MRAG Collection. 9 Letter from Les Darcy, New York to Reg. L. (Snowy) Baker, Sydney, 15 March 1917. Copy of Intelligence Report, week ended 28 April 1917 with transcribed intercepted letter. MRAG Collection. 10 ‘Our American Letter: Les Darcy’s Pathetic Death”, Douglas Erskine, The Referee, Wednesday July 4, 1917. MRAG Collection. 11 Solar Plexus (Will Lawless), The Darcy Story, New Century Press, c.1919. MRAG Collection. All images and graphics sourced from items in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection. Full details: mrag.org.au


SHADOW BOXER

LES DARCY

UNKNOWN ARTIST

Blums Touring Boxing Troupe, circa 1950s boxing tent wall, mixed media, 175 × 233cm Purchased by Maitland Regional Art Gallery, 2004

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LES DARCY


SHADOW BOXER

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LES DARCY


SHADOW BOXER

THANK YOU

The Dobell exhibition Grant SUPPORTED BY THE SIR WILLIAM DOBELL F O U N D AT I O N

Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) extends gratitude to The Dobell Exhibition Grant, supported by the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation, and managed by Museums & Galleries NSW. With these additional funds we were able to extend Shadow Boxer as a stoush that went well beyond the ring. The Dobell Exhibition Grant gave us the opportunity to bring an historic collection to life amidst new ideas and the agency of contemporary artists.

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From MRAG MRAG is especially grateful to the individual artists, writers, sports people, and sports commentators who have enthusiastically and wholeheartedly supported this project from the beginning. Thank you to the artists Karla Dickens, Blak Douglas, Fiona McMonagle, Richard Lewer and Nigel Milsom for borrowed and newly commissioned artwork which sits at the heart of this exhibition. Thank you to photographer Michael Willson (AFL Media) for allowing access to his stunning images of professional Australian Football player and Middleweight boxing champion Tayla Harris. MRAG is thankful to the poet Keri Glastonbury for two newly commissioned sonnets which provide a lyrical view into ‘the ring’. MRAG would also like to acknowledge UK based writer and journalist David Matthews, for his insightful interview from across the world along with his sparring partner MRAG gallery director Gerry Bobsien. MRAG would also like to acknowledge Greg Tindall and John Tindall from Paterson Boxing Gym where Gerry ‘trained’ in preparation for this match. MRAG thanks Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir, former Australian Flyweight Champion and the Oceania Boxing Bantamweight Champion for her insight into the sport of boxing and what it means to be a woman in the boxing ring. MRAG would like to acknowledge Wesley Enoch (via Natalie Stewart at HLA Management Pty Ltd) who in the middle of launching a new play, immersed himself in the world of Shadow Boxer to create an essay

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

reminding us of the shadows at play for First Nation peoples past and present. MRAG would like to thank Mornington Peninsular Regional Gallery, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, along with numerous private lenders accessed via Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane, Amanda Rowell at The Commercial Gallery, Sydney and Edwin Nicholls at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Victoria.

On behalf of the artists Richard Lewer would like to acknowledge Mike Metzner who directed and edited the video Skill, discipline, training. Richard would also like to acknowledge sound design by David Chesworth and photography by Andrew Curtis. Further thanks are also extended to Fusion Works, Melbourne and Northside boxing gym, Melbourne. Finally, Richard would like to acknowledge Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide and Suite Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand. Blak Douglas would like to thank Chad Ritchie Sands, grandson of Australian First Nations boxer Dave Sands. Karla Dickens would like to acknowledge First Nation Tent Boxers along with the women in the Leg Tents that toured with them.

MRAG.ORG.AU


SHADOW BOXER

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FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY M A I T L A N D R E G I O N A L A R T G A L L E R Y, P O B OX 2 2 0 , M A I T L A N D N S W, 2 3 2 0 , T O A C C O M PA N Y T H E E X H I B I T I O N S H A D O W B O X E R . E X H I B I T I O N D AT E S : 8 J U N E — 8 A U G U S T 2 0 2 1 . G A L L E RY D I R E C TO R : G E R RY B O B S I E N . E X H I B I T I O N C U R AT O R : G E R R Y B O B S I E N . G A L L E R Y C O O R D I N AT O R : C E L E S T E A L D A H N . A S S I S TA N T C U R AT O R S : K I M B L U N T, C H E R Y L FA R R E L L . EXHIBITION OFFICER: LINDEN POMARE. R E S E A R C H A S S I S TA N T : F R A N C E S C A C A S T R O . FOREWORD: GERRY BOBSIEN. E S S AY : W E S L E Y E N O C H . E D I T I N G : G E R R Y B O B S I E N , C H E R Y L FA R R E L L , K I M B L U N T, CELESTE ALDAHN, LINDEN POMARE. GRAPHIC DESIGN: CLARE HODGINS. © M A I T L A N D R E G I O N A L A R T G A L L E R Y. ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT OF THE ARTISTS. ISBN: 978-0-6487348-4-0. C ATA L O G U E P R O U D LY P R I N T E D I N A U S T R A L I A BY WHO PRINTING, NEWCASTLE.

Maitland Regional Art Gallery is a service of Maitland City Council and is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW. This exhibition is supported by the Dobell Exhibition Grant, funded by the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation and managed by Museums & Galleries of NSW. All graphics sourced from items in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection. Full details: mrag.org.au

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


LES DARCY

circa 1915, Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection



RICHARD LEWER

(cover and right) Skill, discipline, training, 2021 enamel on reverse mirror, 180 × 110cm