Duncan Poulton is an artist based between London and Brighton, UK. His practice is fed by an obsessive gathering of online content into a vast digital archive, which are recombined into still and moving image collages. Made exclusively with found materials, his works address a visual culture of overabundance and ambivalence, exploring the compression of histories and meaning engendered by the internet. He is a hoarder, a selector and combiner who uses the internet as his palette and imagination.

Duncan scours website upon website for lost, ‘poor’ and arbitrary images which have been buried by biased algorithms, in a process he describes as an ‘archaeology of the new’ – a real-time archiving and remediation of our increasingly virtual world. His recent works have explored digital waste, obsolescence and the death of privacy, whilst recurring interests lie in ideas of appropriation, ownership and excess.

His making processes bring the analogue virtues of improvisation, aggression and urgency into the digital production space. Works emerge from ‘material’ processes which use software to play with fidelity, complexity and texture within digital image files: images are crushed and enlarged, erased and duplicated in repetitious cycles. Content sources range from Creative Commons amateur photography, 3D modelling websites, iPhone photos of charity shop books, diagrams and patents, graffiti and found drawings. Once made, his works are manifested physically in different media – on paper, canvas and aluminium as well as being re-versioned to occupy screens, virtual spaces and publications.

In 2022, his debut solo exhibition Factory Reset was held at SET Lewisham, London, and was featured on WeTransfer, WePresent and in Elephant Magazine. Recent group exhibitions and screenings have taken place at Ars Electronica; MOSTYN, Llandudno; Coventry Biennial; Art Licks Weekend, London; QUAD, Derby; OUTPOST, Norwich; MIT Museum, Massachusetts; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; arebyte, London; CICA Museum, South Korea; and Transmediale, Berlin. He graduated from the University of Brighton in 2015, and from 2019-2021 he participated in the Syllabus, an alternative learning programme led by Wysing Arts Centre and arts venues across England.

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“The liberal use of ‘digital’ and ‘internet’ to define artists (from filmmakers and producers to graphic and video-game designers) means that the genuine obsessives can become lost in a crowd of generalists. Duncan Poulton is a case in point – internet culture is not so much a medium or material for him, but the essential parameters in which his life and art exist. Drawing from a personal archive of more than 30,000 image files, Poulton creates collages using both digital and physical means: Photoshop and digital painting meet spray paint and stickers to give his works a sense of in-betweenness, obscuring sources and questioning the line between assembly and mark-making.”

–Ravi Ghosh, Elephant Magazine

“In his debut solo show Factory Reset, Poulton’s digital collages are shown as prints and videos, brought together in an intricate and busy installation, remodelling the gallery into a chaotic, IRL, computer desktop. The works are made digitally but fabricated physically. Layered and annotated, elements are stuck on with glue, airbrushed and scribbled over with familiar signs or shapes totally out of proportion further, all combining to complicate an easy read. Poulton effortlessly flickers between states, evoking moments when he was haunted by digital imagery and when he would misinterpret digital and physical spaces. Together, the exhibition speaks of the phone, or computer screen, the bedroom and our bodies, that are all so very susceptible and permeable. When you enter Factory Reset you become subsumed by Poulton’s archive, it filters into you and you into it.”

–Rosa Tyhurst, extract from the essay ‘Duncan Poulton: Word Salad’
Read the full essay here