Charles Poulsen ‘Time’


Charlie Poulsen’s practice comprises three distinct categories, identified by the artist as drawing, growing sculpture and studio sculpture. At first glance, these different areas of creative process may seem visually disparate, yet on closer observation, a single unifying factor emerges – that of nature. Every aspect of Poulsen’s work is entwined with the natural world.

This exhibition presented a new body of work by the artist including a suite of recent abstract drawings, both large and small scale, realised in layers of pencil, wax and gouache. Drawing is the beating heart of Poulsen’s practice. He finds parallels between the ephemeral, evocative and transitory nature of drawing and the way we live our lives. For Poulsen, drawing offers a direct and immediate means to channel his thoughts, journeying spontaneously through the work to connect and to discover. His drawings are inspired by the vitality of life found in the natural world. They are without narrative or direct observation, looking beyond physical matter to the invisible energies, the internal organic vigour of growth. The drawings start with a square, chosen for its stability and calmness without landscape or portrait associations.

The unique visual language of Poulsen’s drawing is paralleled in his sculptural practice. He describes his wax sculptures as “three-dimensional drawings”. The wax is malleable, like the surface of a drawing and allows for other materials to be added. Just as Poulsen’s drawings offer layered depth, the wax medium offers a translucent quality giving an impression of looking into and through the work as though peering into infinite space.

Poulsen has worked on major large-scale sculptural commissions including significant collaborative projects of his ‘growing sculpture’ for Marchmont House in Berwickshire, all of which involve objects with living trees that will develop and change over many years. Skyboat, for example, comprises a large wooden fishing boat of over 11 metres in length supported on a high frame with underplanting of young oak trees which will eventually take the weight of the boat themselves. In his work Stone Cracker, a small sapling was planted in the ground then threaded through a hole drilled into a large stone – the fate of the tree and stone left to be decided by nature, and by time. The ‘concept room’ presentation showcased some of these major large-scale sculptural commissions, offering the narrative of these works from conception to delivery, including sketchbook ideas, measured drawings, maquettes, and photographs of the final installed sculptures. It also includes the preparatory drawings and a maquette for a work yet to be realised.


Photo (top): Photographer Colin Hattersley


Charles Poulsen

[ 1952
- Present ]
“I was particularly influenced by commentary in Tate Modern’s catalogue for an exhibition of Agnes Martin (2015), as follows: ‘The root word for ‘grid’ in both Latin and Greek denotes ‘wicker work’ – flexible twigs or shoots woven criss-cross into a horizontal-vertical format.’* This released me – from the idea of the grid as simply a rigid structure of straight lines – and led me to start drawing

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