Drawing on Topolski

An exploration of the relationship between reportage drawing and documentary filmmaking.

“Drawing on Topolski” is a short documentary film by Alistair Oldham that follows the story of a residency programme for young illustrators that has been inspired by the memory of the renowned Polish emigre artist Feliks Topolski. The young artists on the programme use a style of documentary drawing called reportage, where they work in a quick, observational style to capture the essence of the reality in front of them. Their project “Chronicle” is based on months of drawing around the streets of London (at markets, commercial centres, the Houses of Parliament, the law courts, abandoned council estates, food banks and anti fracking protests) and is directly based on Topolski’s own Chronicles, where he printed his own reportage drawings on brown butcher’s paper every month throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties.

On completion of the film, Oldham presented papers at the Avanca International film conference in Portugal, at Talking Shop at the BFI, and at the World Documentary Conference at the University of Falmouth, that in particular explored the relationship between the modes of observational documentary film and the far less mediated practice of reportage drawing.