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Australian art

Contemporary art

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The roofs of Oxford Street (Taylor Square)



Thomas Spence


1952 - 15 Jun 2013


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.


Other Title

The roofs of Oxford Street, Taylor Square

Place where the work was made

Darlinghurst Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Dobell Prize for Drawing

Winner - 1994

Artist information

Thomas Spence

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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. 1