Artist Caroline Walls on Art, Female Form and Femininity
“Ultimately I aim not to transcribe, but rather imply femininity and all that this word can carry with it: strength, fertility, fragility, sexuality, burden and beauty.”
Caroline Walls is an Australian artist living in Melbourne, known for portraying the female form abstractly and beautifully in her minimalist paintings and drawings. Perhaps it’s her background in fashion, where she worked as a designer and art director for 10 years, that is the reason why she creates her work as cohesive “collections” following a broader narrative; the underlying story being one about femininity in its many forms. And perhaps, this is also one of the reasons why we’re so obsessed with following her on Instagram, where these collections are presented in a continuous feed of soft, streamlined shapes coming in a highly contemporary palette of nudes, neutrals and navy. If only our homes (and feeds) looked this good.
Having recently shown her fourth solo exhibition “Darker Places” at the Forty Five Downstairs Gallery in Melbourne, and also being pregnant with her first child, we’re extra grateful and happy that we got to steal some of her precious time.
What has been on your mind lately?
– Motherhood. I am halfway through my pregnancy and I’m in awe of the female body in a very new way.
Who is the artist behind the beautiful art – tell us a bit about yourself.
– I’m equal parts introvert and extrovert, I live with my wife Emma and our black cat Major Tom, I laugh a lot, and have a love for art, music, film and good food. I travel often and love both urban environments, busy cities, wide open roads and the ocean.
Was it a natural transition from working in fashion to being a full-time artist?
– I have always had a keen interest in the visual arts and having completed an honours degree in design, I began working for international fashion and lifestyle brand agencies as a designer and art director. After years of doing this I craved some creative autonomy, and felt a real yearning to explore my own art practice away from the restrictions of clients and design briefs. I returned to Melbourne, Australia, and enrolled in a post-grad in Visual Arts as a way to explore this and haven’t looked back. I certainly never had the intention of becoming a full-time artist; instead it has been a really organic journey and one that I am most grateful for.
We love your aesthetics! How did you develop your techniques and expression?
– As I’ve continued to develop my art practice, I’ve moved towards a more abstract response and interpretation of the bodily forms I create, whereas when I initially began my paintings and drawings were much more figurative. The evolution came about through day to day exploration and discovery – I’m not interested in remaining static with my work, and imagine it will continue to evolve and grow with me as my life experiences and knowledge grows too.
– The process of reduction plays an essential part in the creation of my works, subtracting detail and simplifying forms to create highly abstracted yet hopefully gestural artworks that, although streamlined, still achieve a sense of expression and vitality. It is as much about the lines that I choose to paint as it is about the lines and curves I choose to leave out.
How did the female form become your focus and inspiration?
– I think it is really a mixture of things that drew me into representing and interpreting the female body in my art practice. On a very basic level I really do love the aesthetics of the female form – its curves, solidness, its sensuality – but I’m also interested in what lies beneath the surface, the unseen aspect of a woman that’s so easy to overlook.
– I am deeply curious about the notion of what it means to be a women in today’s social and political climate, and how women are represented in our current cultural sphere. Ultimately I aim not to transcribe, but rather imply femininity and all that this word can carry with it: strength, fertility, fragility, sexuality, burden and beauty.
What does your creative process look like?
– I work fairly intuitively and on a number of pieces at any given time. I tend to spend a period of time developing and exploring compositional options, creating rough sketches and mapping out the colors I’d like to use before beginning a new series. In this sense, I much prefer to work on a collection of works together to form a broader narrative rather than just one isolated painting at a time.
– I generally know what I am going to paint before I put paint brush to canvas, but I always leave room for movement if I feel like the forms could work better or colors can be reworked. I draw the curves and forms intuitively, rather than from models, as I feel like I can be freer and more spontaneous with my line of work.
What women have inspired you in your career, and how?
– Other female artists, past and present – Marlene Dumas, Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois, Polly Borland, Sarah Lucas, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman – for their unapologetic, often dark, interpretation and reflection of the world through their art.
Is there equality in the art scene today would you say?
– I think in the larger galleries and institutions, equality and the representation of women artists has come a very long way. If you look back through the history books, it is rare to find works that represent the female nude as depicted by a female artist. Instead what has been documented are female nudes as seen and portrayed through the gaze of male artists. I think in that sense it’s incredibly important that female artists continue to explore what is truly ours (our bodies) and for it to be acknowledged and recognized as a means to stand for equality. I hope my works can form a small part of that conversation.
Finally: What’s on the horizon?
– A small collection of new paintings exploring notions of fertility and motherhood.
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