The drawings are more about energy than any particular subject matter, those invisible energies, internal organic forces of growth, the forces which drive the winds and currents, the energies within the earth.
Poulsen has always drawn, just as he has always made sculpture. (Some earlier drawings from c.2009 - 10 which seem to reference sculpture are included in the show.) In 2010 he embarked on a major series of large drawings (153 x 153 cms), the most recent of which are the focus of the exhibition. These drawings begin with a square sheet of paper and a drawn square frame within. The square is chosen for its stability. ‘By deliberately drifting the marks beyond the boundaries of the drawn square I am able to develop energies within the drawing without destroying the underlying composure of the square...’ The drawings are often developed using detailed aspects of the grid, the cross, for instance, or simply a straight line. Some are worked entirely in pencil, while others employ the unique combination of pencil, wax and gouache which Poulsen has made his own. Inevitably the physical aspect of working to such a scale – ‘the necessity of using the whole body to drive marks across the surface of the paper is part of the energy I am trying to create’ – recalls, if no one else, Jackson Pollock.
"The root word for ‘grid’ in both Latin and Greek denotes ‘wicker work’ – flexible twigs or shoots woven crisscross into a horizontal-vertical format." This piece of etymological evidence is found in a recent catalogue on the work of Agnes Martin (Agnes Martin edited by Frances Morris and Tiffany Bell, Tate, 2015, p.79) and the discovery of it came for Poulsen as a kind of endorsement, one which encouraged him to further explore possibility within this less ‘rigid’ definition of ‘grid’. His work titled 1st March 2016 consists of a formal grid within which the drawing is ‘loose and almost woven’. Agnes Martin herself was influenced by the innovative weavings of textile artist Lenore Tawney. Poulsen respects the ‘silence’ of Martin’s work, but would be the first to acknowledge that he works to a very different aesthetic.
Songs for Winter Pauline Burbidge and Charles Poulsen
4 November 2017 – 4 March 2018
City Art Centre 2 Market Street Edinburgh EH1 1DE
Quiltscapes Pauline Burbidge
14 October 2016 – 25 March 2017
The International Quilt Study Center Nebraska USA