the impulse to DrAw

Remembering the road

The impulse to remember drives so many things. It's what's driving the making of this. The metaphor of time as a river that so much is washed away in holds true to some degree. So I'm out on my boat collecting what I can from that merciless current. You now see, why I'm making this for me.

It was 1983 when I returned to drawing at the then Mitchell College of Advanced Education, now Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.

Except for the music, very little from that time survives into the present day. However, under the watchful eye of Barry Gazzard a rebirth of something I did compulsively as a child was taking place and I was rediscovering my love of drawing.

Canberra and the School of Art

In 1984 after the breakup of Hardwood Falls, I applied for and gained admission to the Canberra School of Art. Unknown to me at the time, this was to be the biggest turning point of my life.

The degree at Mitchell wasn't completed, instead in '85 I moved to Canberra and began the Foundation studies that would take me through the first 6 months of my 4 year undergraduate Art degree at the Canberra School of Art.

I studied under Dennis Trew, Bernard Hardy, Jeanene Eaton, Judy Silver and Jan Brown in my Foundation year. The learning curve was incredibly steep and productive beyond anything I could imagine.

Sometime in June or July that year Christopher Croft, who later became a very good friend, approached me and asked would I like to apply for entry into the Graphic Investigation Workshop. This was the Holy Grail of the Art School, I had never even ventured inside its doors, such was the reputation.

Weeks passed and I found myself and my work under the scrutiny of the head of GIW, Petr Herel. Throughout the interview process Petr didn't say much, but at the end a wry smile broke out across his face and he said in his heavy Checz accent " well look, this is good and we of course will have you. I am thinking that this work is pretentious, but there is potential"

One of the drawings from my interview with Petr Herel

So began a remarkable phase of my life and a friendship that lasts to this day.

This set of recollections has no particular chronological order.

Whilst one may emerge at any point along the way, my intention here is to put on record some of what has been documented over the years and to give myself impetus to unpack the other three print drawers and chronicle in some way the remaining works in storage.

Pastel on brown paper , 1985, Foundation Studies
Charcoal on stretched paper. 1986
Ink and brush on paper
Charcoal, pastel, graphite and spray adhesive on gesso on paper

Printmaking was an area of practice that remained a focus for a number of years. The print room in the Graphic Investigation Workshop was a hive of activity and until its last days remained one of the few fully equipped letterpress studios in the country. It was a time of unbridled creative freedom that has yet to be rediscovered.

Early print investigation,
Monotype. 1986
Aquatint and sugar lift on zinc plate. 1988
Aquatint and etching on zinc plate. 1988
Etchings. Dimensions various. 1986-90
Etchings. 1989
Graphite on stretched paper
Monotype. 1987
Ink and brush on 260 gsm paper. 1988-89
Brush and ink on Velin Arche. 4x4cm 1988-89
Brush and ink on cartridge paper 1988
Brush and ink on cartridge paper. 1987
Graphite and charcoal on gesso on paper. 1987
Sketchbooks and dinner drawings

My habit of keeping a sketch book at the dinner table proved productive. In a shared house with other artists this was not an unusual thing to do. While I ate I worked. The images below are selected from some of the hundreds of random visual notes filling those books.

Brush and ink on cartridge paper.. 1988
Brush and ink on cartridge paper. 1988
Brush and ink on cartridge paper 1988
Brush and ink on cartridge paper. 1987-89
Brush and ink on Fabriano. Dimensions various. 2004-2007
Wax Works
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Dry point in wax on Velin Arche paper
Bitumen, oil and acrylic on gesso on stretched paper. 2.6m x 1.4m
Bitumen and oil on gesso on stretched paper. 3m x 2m
Cliche Verre

These works were a natural extension of the investigations with bitumous paint on prepared and stretched paper. I'd seen some cliche verre using engraved glass plates from the '20's and '30's and was curious to see what happened with painted plates.

The organic compounds in the bitumen produce all the colours in the prints derived from them.

Again a common story, not many of these survive into the present day. Most were turned into Christmas or birthday cards. These prints never stayed with me for long.

10"x12" . Cliche Verre. Bitumen on glass plate negative.
10"x12" . Cliche Verre. Bitumen on glass plate negative.
10"x12" . Cliche Verre. Bitumen on glass plate negative.
Artist Books + Text
'Tales for Two'. Found book bound in calf skin with erased text. Menzies Library Rare Book Collection, Australian National University.
Another view of ''Tales for Two' and '24 Years. From review of visit to Menzies Rare Book Collection.
'Correspondances' letterpress on cut paper in slip case. Estate of Theirry Bouchard, France.
Ink transfer in pre-bound book.

The images in this book had no prior preparation and were drawn directly into the book. The ink transfer process allows for no corrections or modifications.

Selected images from the 25 page book depicted above. 1989
"Genesis" Plaster powder, charcoal and carborundum on the reverse of photopolymer printing plates. Installation view Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra, ACT.
Genesis text plate from installation at Drill Hall Gallery

."For the orthodox, such a book as Genesis could only be written on Vellum with a specified ink, in a state of awareness induced by ritual and sustained by special rules. This was enacted to ensure accuracy and longevity of the document itself. The functional aspects of being a scribe have now slid across to editors, dseigners and proof readers. Once the plate is right the print will be too. But to print the same text in dust? The scribal rules also have an effect on the scribe. This aspect is amplified in Poulton's version, made visible to the observer and even extended to the observer's role when in front of the work. Now that accuracy of the text is guaranteed by the plates, the printing process itself, in this case the use of dry powder subject to even the smallest deviations in proceedure or the smallest lapses in concentration, is given all the emphasis. Printed in this way, the 'Book of Genesis' becomes a vehicle for creation for the attention associated with the act, and the hubris as well"...

....." All art is a trace of the artist, but in permanent art, this trace becomes the artist. We speak of a Raphael or a Boullee. All installations are temporary too, regardless of their materiality. But in the case of Poulton's light grey print, the fact that it was unfixed and part of an architectural rather than pictorial space meant that it's presence as a trace of a temporary installation was secondary. Rather it pointed to the ritual of making, towards doing rather than keeping. In Poulton's map, this ritual, while not explicit, was there to know about. Apart from the care with which the dust had to be placed, each segment was printed on the overturned block used to print the previous segment, locking the sequence into a one-way flow. In Poulton's terrain, time is a vector, where there is no going back, where you can't, to paraphrase Herekleitos, step on to the same dune twice."

'Dust to Dust' Alex Selenitsch

Imprint, (The Journal of Australian Contemporary Printmaking) Autumn 1995, Vol 30 , Number 1

The above extracts are from a three page article dealing with works that I installed in the Drill Hall Gallery in Canberra 1993. This consisted of a 35sq metre print in unfixed powder and selected pages from the 'Book of Genisis' on aluminium plates in unfixed powder. These were supported by a 7 metre print on acetate, a 21 segment print on laminated sagami paper panels, 10 zinc plate engravings and a 6 block wood engraving.

Genesis text in unfixed charcoal, carborundum and plaster powder
Installation views of Post Graduate exhibition at Drill Hall Gallery 1991
Segment of concertina book. Brush and ink + letterpress.
Ink transfer on 260 gsm Velin Arche. 1989
Brush and ink on Fabriano in Solander box. 1989
Brush and etching ink on Velin Arche. 6cm x 4cm. 1988
Excerpt from folio series. Brush and ink on paper. 1989
Excerpt from folio series. Brush and ink on paper. 1989
Excerpt from folio series. Brush and ink on paper. 1989

I was offered a scholarship for Post Graduate Studies and took that up in 1990. It was an extraordinarily productive year and I shared my Post Graduate Exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery with the incredibly talented electronic media artist Maria Stukoff. Documentation of that show exists but it's remnants are scattered.

Work from that exhibition was written up in 'Imprint', the Australian Print Journal in a three page spread by Melbourne writer Alex Selenitch.

digital Graphic Works
Untitled. 2010
Number 9. 2010
The River Styx. 2010
'this is' 2010
'Untitked' 2010
Mobile Graphic Works 2012-2015

Work with procedural and mobile drawing tools began after seeing Graphic works by artists using 'Processing' and wondering whether there was a way to produce images without having to code. This took me on a long and tedious search that eventually led to a website that used a procedural drawing algorithm. It was called "Live Sketch".

Even with a graphics tablet, beginnings were cumbersome. However it was not long before it became available for iPhone and iPad and the images below are from those first investigations with that app.

Early drawings on iPad
Early drawings on iPad

Adapting to the media and its limitations in terms of workspace started to bear fruit and images began to have some life in them.

I spent some time looking at the work David Hockney was doing with 'Brushes' app. This seemed to kick things along for a while. I don't use that particular app all that much. However I've found 'Sketch Club' (as cliched as it sounds) able to give more, for my graphic sensibility to work with.

Harbour and skyline. 2013
Red. 2013
Procedural drawing
Exhibitions & Awards 2010 - 2020
  • AddOn 2020 | 541 Art Space, 541 Kent St, Sydney, NSW, Au
  • AddOn 2019 | 541 Art Space, 541 Kent St, Sydney, NSW, Au
  • AddOn 2018 | 541 Art Space, 541 Kent St, Sydney, NSW, Au
  • AddOn 2017 | Paddington Town Hall, Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, Au
  • AddOn 2016' Central Park Project Space, Chippendale, AU
  • Scope Miami 2015, Miami Beach, USA
  • 'AddOn' 2015 Depot Gallery, Dank St, Waterloo, Au
  • iPhone Photography Awards 2014 ( 6 x Honourable mentions)
  • Scope New York @ Armory Week
  • 'AddOn' 2014 Depot 2 Gallery, Dank St, Waterloo, Au
  • 'Sketchbook Project' Tour, USA. 2014
  • 'Treasures of the Menzies Library' Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2014
  • 'Sketchbook Project Australia, VCA, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Au. 2013
  • 'Scope' Miami, USA, 2013
  • 'AddOn' Depot St Gallery, Dank St, Waterloo, (HeadOn Photo Festival)
  • 'iPhone Photography Awards' 2013 ( 3 x Honourable Mentions )
  • 'Sketchbook Project' International Touring Exhibition 2012
  • 'Art Takes Times Square' Times Square, New York
  • 'iPhone Photography Awards' 2012 ( 2 x Honourable mentions )
  • 'AddOn' 2012 Mary Place Gallery, Paddington, NSW ( HeadOn Photo Festival )
  • 'iPhone Photography Awards' 2011 ( Finalist in two categories)
  • 'Napoli Film Festival' Video under Volcano, 2011
  • 'Hipstamatics' Orange Dot Gallery, London, 2011
  • 'Moran National Open Photographic Prize' 2010 (Semi Finalist)
  • 'NSW Parliamentary Photographic Prize' 2010 Finalist

All images (c) Gary Poulton, except Tales for Two and 24 Years.

Created By
Gary Poulton


all images Gary Poulton