The landscape of the remote rural property where Thomas Spence was born differs in every respect from his adopted home of Sydney.
'When I first came to the ‘big city’ of Sydney in my twenties it was like arriving in Disneyland, a world of lushness and plenty – suburban gardens full of flowers, green grass, lights everywhere, in contrast to the austerity and harshness of rural life. This suburban landscape was captivating creatively for a time and dominated my work for a number of years. It was during this time that I decided I would concentrate exclusively on drawing – graphite on paper with an occasional acrylic wash. This technique allowed me the kind of precision and detail I was after to describe the minutiae and almost infinite detail of people’s lives in the suburbs, which so interested me (Thomas Spence, 2003)'.
Spence made a number of small drawings from the top of a block of apartments on Flinders Street, Darlinghurst, near Taylor Square in inner Sydney, which he developed into this drawing in his studio. The attraction afforded by this vantage point was that it gave him an unusual view, looking down on the roofs of the surrounding buildings. Spence made three or four other drawings of Oxford Street, including one of the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a street parade that takes place there, until he found access to the apartment rooftop was no longer available.
This work won the Dobell Prize for Drawing in 1994 and was acquired by the Gallery in 1994.
The roofs of Oxford Street, Taylor Square
pencil, graphite, watercolour, scraping out, silver, blue and red glitter, green and black ink, black and copper coloured acrylic on three sheets of whit wove paper on board
101.7 x 242.8 cm sheet overall; 110.0 x 250.0 x 2.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r.corner, brush and black ink and l.l. corner (twice), black fibre-tipped pen "T W Spence". Signed verso, fibre-tipped pen "Thomas Spence". Not dated.
Gift of the Trustees of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation 1994
Not on display
© Thomas Spence
Dobell Prize for Drawing (discontinued)
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Dobell Prize for Drawing 1994, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Mar 1994–15 May 1994
Dobell Drawing Prize 1998 (Touring show):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 14 Mar 1998–19 Apr 1998
- The George Adams Gallery, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne 24 Jul 1998–06 Sep 1998
Dobell Prize for Drawing: the first ten years, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Sep 2004–30 Nov 2004
Thomas Spence, Retrospective and New Works, Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, 16 Apr 2010–03 Jun 2010
Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 Years of the Dobell Drawing Prize:
- Grafton Regional Gallery 15 Feb 2013–24 Mar 2013
- Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Booragul 30 Mar 2013–05 May 2013
- Orange Regional Gallery, Australia 05 Jul 2013–18 Aug 2013
- National Art School, Sydney 29 Aug 2013–06 Oct 2013
- Tweed River Regional Art Gallery 18 Oct 2013–24 Nov 2013
- Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra 11 Apr 2014–18 May 2014
Referenced in 5 publications
Sasha Grishin, The Canberra Times, ‘Farce v serious art judgment’, pg. 17, Canberra, 23 Mar 1994, 17.
Hendrik Kolenberg, Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 years of the Dobell Prize for Drawing, ‘Introduction’, pg. 6-14, Sydney, 2012, 2 (illus., detail), 7, 22, 23 (colour illus.), 60.
Hendrik Kolenberg, The Dobell Prize for Drawing: 1993-2004, ‘Introduction: the first ten years’, pg. 8-9, Sydney, 2004, 9, 14-15 (colour illus.), 18, 19 (colour illus.), 50, 51.
Bronwyn Watson, The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Drawing on the fine detail’, pg. 26, Sydney, 27 Apr 1994, 26.
Gavin Wilson, Thomas Spence: 35 years of expressing the inexpressible, Queensland, 2010. cat.no. 1