In Conversation with Caroline Walls
A huge thank you to artist Caroline Walls and all those who made it to the Modern Times Artist Talk on Saturday morning. Together with our generous sponsors CAPI and Everyday Coffee we had a fantastic catch up following on from the opening of Caroline’s sell out show ‘Another Thought’. Enjoy reading our interview below to gain an interesting insight into her inspirations and artistic practice.
Your bio is extremely impressive and seems so diverse in its fields of interest; can you tell us a bit about what led you to make art? And more specifically tell us about how you came to explore the female form in your practice?
During my schooling, art subjects were always my key focus and having studied Visual Communication at university, I began my career working with agencies here and internationally, as an art-director and designer - specialising in fashion and luxury brands, so this kind of work and environment allowed me to really blend my interest in art and commerce. Ultimately though, I had a real yearning to find a more autonomous outlet for self-expression through my art-making. This lead me to do a year-long post-graduate certificate at the VCA in Visual Art which opened my eyes to the possibilities of making art as a full time career. In terms of my subject matter, the female form has been of interest to me since I was fairly young – my parents have my figurative paintings on canvas I did when I was 15 years old still hanging on their walls so I’ve come full circle. It feels very naturally that this exploration of the female form continues, albeit in many different guises across the different mediums I work with.
You use the term “fluidity” when talking about the female form in your work, can you elaborate on what you mean by this?
On a physical level I guess it’s my way of evoking in one word the expressive qualities of the female form that I see and love – a women’s curves, it’s wholeness, it’s innate sensuality. The way it can express so much in how it moves, bends and reacts to the world.
On a more psychological level I am also keenly interested in the study of female sexuality and the fluidity of this – I’ve read many books on the subject and a lot of my works explores the idea around a women’s sexuality and how it is perpetually in motion and is not a static thing – but in fact fluid.
Can you perhaps talk us through some of your process, what spurs your ideas from mind to canvas?
Generally, all of my canvas works begin with very rough sketches – I have piles of them around the studio, some are highly detailed and others are very minimal, loose and spontaneous – which got me interested the concept of reduction.
With this particular series of works I set out to explore the female form in a reductive state, to the point of abstraction. Adding and subtracting the line and shape that make up the female in order to heighten the expressive power of the overall composition.
You work spans across sculpture, print, drawing, and painting mediums do you find that certain ideas translate better in one state or the other? Or is it the medium that guides the way for your ideas?
My interest in working across multiple mediums is for varied reasons - it allows me to explore the same theme in many ways, to produce new and unique responses to the notion of the female and what this word can evoke through varying the tactile and aesthetic qualities of each medium. The choice of medium can also dictate how spontaneous I can be - I choose drawing with charcoal for its ability to be really freeing and efficient and expressive – anytime or anywhere, whereas my paintings on canvas are made up of highly considered compositions that take more planning and a deeper thought process. I love sitting with a painting for hours and methodically apply layers and layers of paint - it's really meditative.
What draws me into your work is a lot about the palette, the use of the soft hues with a really limited range in your work is common and I’m curious to learn what happens in your colour making or selection process? What influences the choice of colour?
On a really basic level my choice in using such a tight colour palette of nudes, neutrals, deep blues and blacks comes from a really pure and honest aesthetic response I have to these tones that is just intrinsically part of me – they fill me with happiness when I look at them – my home for instance and what I choose to have around me are all very much in these muted and subtle tones. Bold, bright colours in tones of greens yellows, reds, bright blues wouldn’t convey the feelings I want to evoke in my works either and to stray from my palette wouldn’t feel natural I guess. These colours allow me to express the suppleness of skin, the softness of a women’s body and so on but I think even though my works can be very muted, subtle and minimal in colour palette there is a real boldness in that.
The way women see themselves and see other women is somehow still dictated by a general sense of what it is to be female which may not always reflect reality, is this something you think about when making a work? Can you tell us about the themes you explore in your work and what you hope the audience will experience in seeing your work?
I hope my works evoke a sense of celebration and empowerment of and for the female. I’m interested in what lies beneath the surface of a woman in todays cultural sphere – given the intensity in which we are forced to engage and present ourselves with the influx of social media and what we witness online, in magazines etc. There is still a real pressure to present ourselves in a certain way with relation to our sensuality, our sexuality, what we do with out fertility and the types of work we do. So in that sense I am ever curious about the differences between the private and the public self and how outside forces can impede on a womans truest self – the unseen aspect of a woman. I think in many ways we have seen a real shift in perceptions of what it means to be female, an openness and solidarity that wasn’t so apparent before but I do believe there is a long way to go. As a woman myself I am deeply curious about the way gender lines, sense of self and sexuality plays into our understanding and approach to the world around us and I hope my works can form a small part of that conversation.
I think we can lighten up again and chat about your inspirations. What are you presently influenced by— are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to inspire you?
I take a lot of inspirations from the everyday experiences I go through as a woman, particularly as a woman in a relationship with another woman (which creates an interesting dynamic with the generally heteronormative world around me). Also I am a sponge for ideas and thoughts that come up in conversation I have with close friends that centre around relationships, the sense of self and so on. It shouldn’t come as a surprise but I have a deep love for figurative (or bodily-leaning!) art created by women artists – there is no shortage of incredible works that inspire, some past and some present; Marlene Dumas, Polly Borland, Sarah Lucas, Collier Schorr, Louise Bourgeois, Kerstin Dreschel.. I could go on! Music is always on in my studio which allows me to really switch off from the outside world, and particular tracks have been known to influence the titles of my pieces!
You’ve lived in such big cities New York, London; do you feel you’re influenced creatively by your city? If so what influences has Melbourne given you?
My personal experiences have been that even though cities such as NYC and London are much larger in many respects I’ve always found a smaller community of people and day to day experiences within it that feels much like Melbourne, creatively speaking, the subject matter, inspiration and experiences of womanhood I choose to seek out and engage in are universal so I don’t feel like it’s dictated by any particular city as such.