London-based Scottish contemporary painter Caroline Walker paints realistic, often enigmatic images of women at work in enclosed private and public spaces.Read More
An avid drawing and painting enthusiast from a young age, Caroline Walker was influenced by the likes of Thomas Gainsborough, Henry Raeburn, and The Glasgow Boys. This influence is evident in the naturalistic realism with which she always renders her subjects. She studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art, graduating with a BA in 2004, then completed an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London, in 2009.
Initially, Walker hired models and staged them for photographs in carefully designed domestic scenes. Around 2016, though, she switched to a more documentary approach, taking to the city streets to find her anonymous subjects in their natural environment.
Caroline Walker's anonymous women, who have been consistent subjects in her work, come from far and wide. They are housewives, tailors, shop assistants, waitresses, hairdressers, hotel housekeepers, nail salon beauty technicians, and more. Between works, there is a diversity of socio-economic status, ranging from individuals living in mansions on the hills above Los Angeles to refugee women living in London in very basic accommodation.
Walker uses different colour palettes in each painting to create a sense of light and atmosphere indicative of a specific time of day and place, whether that is Palm Springs early on a summer's evening, or inside a suburban English home in the middle of the afternoon. The narrative is never fully and overtly told in these scenes, aside from the occasional sense of discord between the subject and her surroundings.
In Caroline Walker's paintings, the viewer sees only enigmatic moments of pause and contemplation, the context of which they are never party to. Just like the subjects in Edward Hopper's New York window scenes, they catch a small frozen snapshot of the lives of these women—a glimpse through an open window or doorway, or across the room in a public space.
Any understanding of personal narratives in Caroline Walker's scenes is subordinate to the greater project of exploring contemporary femininity by presenting snapshots of women carrying out their ordinary lives in female-dominated professions that rarely receive recognition.
Quickly rising to prominence in the past decade, Caroline Walker has featured in exhibitions all around the globe. Her work can be found in several major collections including the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague; the Royal College of Art, London; Kistefos Museum, Jevnaker, Norway; and the National Museum of Wales.
Janet, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (2020); A Woman Sewing, GRIMM, Amsterdam (2019); Painted Ladies, Space K, Gwacheon (2017); The Racquet Club, GRIMM, Amsterdam (2016); Bathhouse, Space K, Seoul (2015); Vantage Point, Ana Cristea Gallery, New York (2011); Anonymous Was a Woman, Ivan Gallery, Bucharest (2010).
Everyday Heroes, Southbank Centre, London (2020); The Conversation, Anat Ebgi, San Francisco (2019); Actions: The image of the world can be different, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (2018); Disruptive Imagination: Making Windows Where There Were Once Walls, Gallery of Fine Arts in Ostrava, Czech Republic (2017); Reality: Modern and Contemporary British Painting, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2015).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020