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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Made in Wadeye



Gareth Sansom


1939 -


Gareth Sansom was born in Melbourne and studied art at RMIT between 1959-64. He came to prominence as a figurative painter in Melbourne in the 1960s at a time of increasing abstraction, with influences ranging from British pop art to Francis Bacon. Sansom’s idiosyncratic drawings, watercolours, collages and paintings work straddle figuration and abstraction, and are based on a personal iconography that extends back over fifty years, and includes imagery of a sexual, philosophical and religious nature. His work defies narrative - despite the apparent randomness of the images, the artist’s formal and aesthetic ordering of them within the structure of the composition renders them whole. Works on paper – drawings, watercolours, photography and collage – have always been a key part of his practice - he represented Australia at the Seventh Triennial India in 1991, and won the National Works on Paper Award at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery in 2006, exhibiting watercolours in both.

'Made in Wadeye' is a suite of twenty drawings selected by the artist from a larger group of about forty made over a period of about eleven days in Wadeye, a remote Indigenous settlement south west of Darwin, in September 2012. Sansom spent two weeks in the town with his wife, a doctor, who had flown in for a month of clinical work. He walked the streets of the town, sometimes taking photographs, and observed and met the local people. The drawings were made in a pad of cartridge paper, disassembled once he returned to his Melbourne studio. To some, additional collage was applied, and then a selection of the final exhibited works made.

Works on paper are a discrete and ongoing aspect of Sansom’s oeuvre – "They balance out my work, explain what I am doing" (interview with the artist and AGNSW, 19 November 2012). Occasional drawings are used to resolve problems in a painting; some are kept in a “collage box”, for possible re-use in future works. Sansom’s Wadeye drawings were made independently of any other work, a product of his time in the settlement, which was a dislocating experience of time and place. However, while Wadeye was the impetus for the series, it was not its subject; "I make stream of consciousness drawings with sources going back years" (interview with the artist and AGNSW, 19 November 2012). References to Wadeye are limited to a small hand-drawn map given to the artist by a local nurse, which he has added as collage in one of the drawings, and some earth, captured in egg tempera on paper.


Place where the work was made

Wadeye (Port Keats) Northern Territory Australia



Media categories

Drawing , Collage

Materials used

ink, lead pencil, graphite, coloured watercolour pencil, fibre-tipped pen, ball-point pen, egg tempera, earth, collage on white cartridge paper


29.7 x 42.0 cm each sheet; 119.0 x 210.0 cm overall; 127.5 x 219.0 x 6.2 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. corner, black fibre-tipped pen "GS ‘12".


Gift of the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation 2012


Not on display

Accession number


Dobell Prize for Drawing

Winner - 2012

Artist information

Gareth Sansom

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Wadeye (Port Keats)

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 16 publications


Sean Aylmer (Editor in Chief), Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Summer: the planner’, pg. 6, Sydney, 26 Dec 2012, 6. author unknown

Sean Aylmer (Editor in Chief), Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Pencil it in’, pg. 25, Sydney, 08 Dec 2012, 25 (colour illus.). Spectrum supplement; author unknown; artist is pictured standing in front of the work

Helen Campbell, Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 years of the Dobell Prize for Drawing, ‘The prize winners 1993-2012’, pg. 19-61, Sydney, 2012, 58, 59 (colour illus.).

community’., ninemsn, ‘Made in Wadeye was inspired, Australia, 30 Nov 2012. not paginated; author unknown; viewed 03.12.2012,

Sarah Dingle., ABC News, ‘Melbourne artist wins Dobell drawing prize’, Australia, 30 Nov 2012, (colour illus., detail). not paginated; viewed 03.12.2012,

Alexandra Djurichkovic., Australian art collector online, ‘Gareth Sansom wins final Dobell Drawing Prize’, Sydney, 04 Dec 2012, (colour illus., detail). not paginated; viewed 05.12.2012,

Christopher Dore (Editor in Chief), Daily Telegraph, ‘Dobell prize will take a new line’, pg. 28, Sydney, 01 Dec 2012, 28 (colour illus.). author unknown; artist pictured standing next to work

Tim Douglas., The Australian, ‘Gareth Sansom wins Dobell Prize’, Canberra, 30 Nov 2012. not paginated; viewed 03.12.2012,

Tim Douglas, Weekend Australian, ‘Dobell drawing prize awarded for the last time’, pg. 5, Sydney, 01 Dec 2012-02 Dec 2012, 5 (colour illus.). artist pictured standing next to work

Andrew Frost.,, ‘Dobell Prize for Drawing’, Australia, 21 Dec 2012, (colour illus.). not pgainated; viewed 11.01.2013,

Andrew Frost, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Metro critic’s choice: art’, pg. 2, Sydney, 28 Dec 2012, 2 (colour illus.). Metro supplement

Sebastian Smee, Ashley Crawford, Simon Maidment and Pip Wallis, Gareth Sansom: Transformer, Melbourne, 2017, 130-131 (colour illus.), 195.

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, ‘Drawing a line under the Dobell Prize’, pg. 10, Sydney, Feb 2013, 10 (colour illus.). author unknown; artist is pictured standing in front of the work

Andrew Taylor, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Final stroke for the Dobell drawing prize’, pg. 2, Sydney, 01 Dec 2012-02 Dec 2012, 2.

Andrew Taylor., Brisbane Times, ‘Top drawing prize erased after 20 years’, Brisbane, 30 Nov 2012, (colour illus.). not paginated; artist pictured standing next to work; viewed 03.12.2012,

Di Thomas (Editor in Chief), The Border Mail, ‘Artist goes bush and finds clarity of Wadeye’, pg. 24, Albury, 01 Dec 2012, 24 (colour illus.). author unknown; artist pictured standing next to work