Poole paints up new future
I was two years old when my dad died, and as one of five kids I went to Tempe Tech -“ the worst school in Australia to go to when I was there.
I quit school at 13 to become an apprentice butcher. I never had a good education and there never was much for me except being a labourer or something like that.
I started my apprenticeship at Betta Meats butcher shop in Newtown, so I spent most of my early life surrounded by sirloins, sausages and sweetmeats.
As part of my apprenticeship I attended the School of Butchering at East Sydney Technical College in Darlinghurst, where I was surrounded by the sculptures and paintings from the National Art School, which shared the same campus.
A few decades on, I was butchering to the rich and famous in Woollahra, including Thelma Clune, a famous patron of the Sydney arts scene and its fledgling gallery system. I accompanied Clune to many of the openings during the grand epoch of Sydney art in the 70s.
There was an underground gay scene happening but nothing major. There was a dance night I went to when I was 22 called Chameleons with my straight friends.
When I was 23 I married a woman called Ann. She had a number of miscarriages but we never had children. We separated when I was 30 and that’s when I found out I was gay.
I was very close to my straight friends. We were always touching one another and hugging but I thought it was a natural thing. It wasn’t taken any further until I met some gay people.
I always drew and just mucked around, but when I was 33 I started to do some part-time courses.
I was also working behind the bar at Her Majesty’s Theatre where I met a guy named Wayne who was working in the show Gypsy. I dated him for 18 months, but I was still discovering myself so it didn’t really work.
I started a sculpting class at the National Art School (NAS) in 1979 while I was running my own butcher shop in Woollahra. Then I did painting and drawing at Waverley Woollahra Art School while running my own takeaway food shop.
After travelling overseas for a year studying Italian and seeing the world, I returned and opened another caf?ear Central. I was there for three years and hardly made a penny.
In the meantime, I met my partner Garry Turner. By the 1990s I had what I like to call a mid-life crisis, having endured the death of Garry from AIDS.
From there on I started to look at life differently, reviewed my priorities and decided to go to Art School full-time, using a $10,000 bequest from Garry to fund my studies.
With the money Garry left me and the ability to survive on a pittance, it gave me the courage to apply at the NAS. I was working two days a week at a sausage factory and studying the rest of the time and loving it.
Graduating in 1994, I decided to set up an artist colony to immerse myself in this creative culture.
I also started a relationship with Wayne, the man whom I had met two decades earlier at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Life with a new partner took me to London where I showed at the Sheridan Russell Gallery in Baker St, cementing my international success and helping me make it into the collections of major connoisseurs in London and New York.
I took out a lease on an old Catholic boys school in Lennox St, Newtown, and 13 years later the place is a thriving community of 36 artists.
My latest works will be on show at the Lennox Street Studios exhibition opening 2 November.
As told to SUNNY BURNS