Caroline Walker (b. 1982, Dunfermline, Scotland) studied at Glasgow School of Art and at the Royal College of Art. Known for her paintings of women in interiors, Walker has exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at SpaceK in Seoul and Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. For this latter exhibition, the artist was commissioned by Kettle’s Yard to create a series in response to the refugee crisis, resulting in paintings of five different women exploring how migration status impacted their relationship to their new environment.
Walker’s practice explores the complexities of women’s position in society through depictions of the spaces of femininity. In representing her subjects as they inhabit different interiors, she captures contemporary experiences of womanhood, exposing the gap between lived reality and the archetypes women often come to embody. Walker plays with this ambiguity, luring the viewer into a fictionalised world with her vivid and enticing paintings, whose surfaces offer just enough information to affirm the reality of her vision, whilst leaving enough to the viewer’s imagination.
In her 2016 series Downtown LA and Palm Springs, Walker cast professional models into glamorous backdrops; photographing them and then reinterpreting these images on canvas. Her paintings were meticulously staged, giving an intensely cinematic feel; even in her more recent series (such as Home, 2017 and Service, 2017-18) which deal with ‘real’ figures as opposed to actors such feeling is preserved. Walker’s approach is often very voyeuristic: peering through blinds or around doors to catch her subjects absorbed in a task or themselves. This is a deliberate device, developed by Walker under the influence of directors like Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Paolo Sorrentino, whose films have inspired the artist not only in terms of the visual devices of framing images but also the way in which narrative is constructed through the relationship of subject and viewer, and the creation of an overarching and compelling atmosphere.
Her works also engage with the history of representations of women in paint as well as film. Western art history has largely cast the male gaze as portrayer of the female figure. Walker revisits this long tradition adopting a female perspective, using this voyeurism against itself to challenge the position of the viewer, since artist and model share the same gender. In this way, Walker can empathise with her models, sharing with them the same realm of subjectivity. As the artist states : “I paint women because in some ways I am always painting myself, and my own experiences or anxieties, but from a distanced objective position which can hopefully also reflect how we all encounter the world.”