Sydney sketching : sketching Sydney – Postcode 2042, Enmore. The Dispensary Hall.

June 25, 2011

 82-84 Enmore Road ENMORE NSW 2042

 

 12.15pm, sunny 20-degree Winter afternoon, 25 June 2011. Derwent graphite B pencil, with added Staedtler Fineliner pen, W&N watercolours and Reeves gouache added later. See the Commons photo on Wikipedia (“Newtown”) for (a) graffiti on the brick wall since removed, and (b) probably photographed a fraction later in the afternoon. Uncannily, this is almost the same angle from which I chose to sketch.

I “celebrated” the final bookbinding class of the term by looking at three buildings in the vicinity of the bindery: the old Enmore Post Office, now vacant premises but with two separate facades; the Art Deco Enmore Theatre with its striking long lines and black lettered signage and the Dispensary Hall.

Last week, I happened to pass through Sydney Hospital, previously known as Sydney Infirmary & Dispensary. This particular dispensary is in suburban Sydney, in what was marketed at the beginning of the 20th century to prospective home owners as a “workingman’s paradise”, Newtown. Around the time of Federation in 1901, there were no municipal libraries or local government services so many institutes and lodges were set up to help what we’d now call “Australian families” (previously referred to by politicians and others as “working families” and before that “the working class”). The Friendly Societies Dispensary, now know as Dispensary Hall was a cross between a pharmacy and a medical benefits fund in today’s term and there were apparently similar ones elsewhere in Sydney, e.g. Balmain (where Johnny O’Keefe, our first rock star, once performed). It served at the time the needs of a number of Lodges already established in Newtown, providing sick and funeral benefits. Cost per member, in 1912, was sixpence each month. Heaven help the working poor if they were unable to call on the assistance of large benevolent organisations, especially in the massive recessions of the late 1800s just prior to Federation.

The hall behind it was a large meeting venue, of use to politicians addressing the masses before the era of mass communication. Apparently before television, politicians had the courage of their convictions to face constituents in person and outline their policies and views.

Architecturally, it was built in 1902 and enlarged in 1912 and is built of Flemish bond brickwork with a corner turret to the first floor; sandstone detailed to the windows, nameplate and string and contrasting brick detailing to the entry arch. The hall is visually austere; the Dispensary fronting Enmore Road positively glows in the western afternoon sun and the contrast between the warm sandstone and large areas of dark brick is sumptuous.

Working with paints was too difficult on the busy footpath but the passers-by weren’t unsympathetic since this is an artist’s district. I would have liked to have returned after bookbinding class, but we went off as a group to an exhibition opening in Wilson Street instead. I managed forty minutes standing across the road from the Pharmacy facade, realising that the Dispensary Hall is in fact a large building behind it facing Reiby Street. I’ll manage the two together at another time since they really require a landscape format. Like the Nightingale Wing, there’s almost too much detail to take in at once. Perching just inside an off-street driveway, I started sketching when two young women wandered into frame to sit on the front step of one of the downstairs shops of the Pharmacy building. They eventually took note I was drawing the building then managed to ignore me, allowing me to get on with things. Eventually a bloke on a motorcycle whisked one of the girls away, the other wandered off towards Newtown.

I’ve again adopted this peculiar style of a contour running off in all directions. I haven’t worried about ‘the whole’ as I would if this was a Drawing. Being a Sketch, I can ignore perspective if I feel like it and simply relish in balancing line with geometric forms. I’ve left all my problems and solutions on the page. Very intense observation has allowed me to remember where colour changes and where shadows fall. I’ve added colour because of the contrast I wanted to get between brick and sandstone, something which isn’t obvious from black-and-white alone. The subsequent colouring turns the Sketch into a Drawing, but that doesn’t faze me. I’ve loosened up the brush strokes compared to Nightingale Wing because while the Wing was pretty and Italiante, this facade is more ‘Australian’ and ‘open’, more extravagant and lush. The aspect makes all the difference: the Wing faces on to a courtyard, the Pharmacy faces on to a busy street. Both public spaces, but the former closed and the other open. The building itself hasn’t been fully restored, unlike, say, the Newtown Trocadero (now radiant and air-brushed); it has had a lot of its edges knocked off over the decades and like much of Newtown’s buildings, is somewhat down at heel.

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