New statues installed at Fort Canning Park to commemorate Singapore's first botanical garden

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SINGAPORE: A pair of life-size bronze figures that look deep in conversation now stand at the site of Singapore's first botanical and experimental garden in Fort Canning Park. 

The statues are of Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded the settlement of Singapore in 1819, and renowned Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich. 

Both were good friends who helped establish that garden in 1822, which was closed seven years later after meeting with financial difficulties. 

The artwork, titled “Scholars in Conversation: Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr Nathaniel Wallich”, was unveiled by the National Parks Board (NParks) on Tuesday (May 21) to honour their contributions to Singapore’s botanical heritage. 

LOVE OF BOTANY

Both men helped shape the plant work of Singapore in the early years, said Mr Ng Boon Gee, group director of NParks’ Fort Canning Park and Istana Division.

The sculptures have been installed at Canning Rise in Fort Canning Park, in the transition zone between Farquhar Garden and Spice Gallery and within the boundaries of the first botanic garden in Singapore. 

The artwork shows the trunks of bronze trees rising upward and transforming into semi-abstracted figures entwined with vines and leaves. The heads and upper bodies are clear portrayals of Raffles and Wallich growing out of the abstracted forms of nature. 

The sculptures were designed by British artist and archaeometallurgist Andrew Lacey, whose approach to making sculptures is influenced by historic, archaeological, and scientific study. 

“Raffles is an iconic figure in himself. Wallich is this genius mind. But they were brought together because of their love of botany,” said Mr Lacey, who wanted to move away from the serious side of the colonial figures in his work. 

“This conversation over time, their letters (to each other) – that was the thing that really captured my mind. They were really close friends and that really struck me. So I thought that's one of the narratives that has to be woven into this whole story to take it further.”

The artwork was commissioned by the University of East Anglia Alumni (Singapore Chapter), and donated by the Estate of Mr and Mrs Tan Chee Kow through the Garden City Fund, a registered charity and Institution of a Public Character established by NParks.

On working with bronze, Mr...

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