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The Physical And Emotional Intimacy Of Caroline Walls’ Paintings

Studio Visit

Despite constant news of a decimated arts industry in the wake of the pandemic, there are a few success stories that have emerged from the depths of lockdown. Caroline Walls is one of them! The visual artist pivoted early to online exhibitions, and has found new audiences locally and overseas as a result of this virtual presence.

Caroline’s newest exhibition, In The Company of Shadows, opens on her website today. Curved lines and figurative gestures soften her abstract shapes, creating a powerful interplay between emotional and physical intimacy realised in her signature neutral palette. See inside her Northcote studio below!

28th October, 2021

Visual artist Caroline Walls works from a studio in her Northcote studio. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

‘The space has beautiful natural light throughout the day and window views across the inner north through to Melbourne’s city skyline,’ says Caroline of her studio. ‘It’s filled with all of my favourite things; paints, brushes, pencils, clay and books and it has a really calming feel to it.’ Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Caroline works in painting, drawing and sculpting. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

She used to be an art director in the fashion industry and took a leap of faith to pursue the art career she had always dreamed of. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Contrary to a lot of the stories about the devastation of the creative industries during the pandemic, Caroline’s pivot to online exhibitions has opened her practice to new audiences locally and overseas. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Like her paintings, Caroline’s sculptures are fluid, sensual and minimalist, combining abstract gestures with figurative lines. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Leafing through sheafs of drawings. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Her new show comprises of 11 paintings, each one large-scale and combining figurative and abstract elements. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Caroline standing in her studio gives a sense of the works’ scale. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

‘Ultimately I like to think of my art as a celebration of womanhood and hope,’ she says. Photo – Annika Kafcaloudis.

Sasha Gattermayr
Thursday 28th October 2021

‘Ultimately I like to think of my art as a celebration of womanhood and hope.’ – Caroline Walls

Believe it or not, Caroline Walls has not always been a visual artist. After ten years of working as an art director in the fashion industry in London, New York and Melbourne, she took a leap of faith going back to uni to study visual art. And it paid off!

For the past six years she’s been practising as an artist full-time, working from an upstairs room in her terrace house in Northcote. Surrounded by her favourite things (‘paints, brushes, pencils, clay and books’), Caroline paints, sculpts and draws her pieces in her signature rhythmic style across mediums.

The eleven, large-scale paintings for her newest exhibition, In The Company of Shadows, are an extension of her signature curvaceous motifs, exploring intimacy, womanhood, desire and touch through abstract and figurative gestures.

Learn more about her varied yet refined practice below.

Hello Caroline! We’ve been fans of yours for a while now. Can you describe the typical subject matter of your works?

Themes surrounding womanhood and the beauty and power of the female form weave their way through all of the works that I create. I tend to explore themes that have touched me personally as a woman, such as fertility, motherhood, sexuality, intimacy, desire and the need for emotional connection.

What is the process of actually making one of your paintings?

I work fairly intuitively and on a number of pieces at any given moment. I tend to spend a period of time developing and exploring compositional options, creating rough sketches and mapping out the tones I’d like to use before beginning a new series over a three to six month period. 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.

Once I have refined the forms and composition of a collection as sketches on paper I then move to putting paint brush to canvas. I always leave room for movement if I feel like the forms needs reworking once scaled-up – most of my works are painted on large-scale canvases.

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.

Tell me about your new exhibition.

This new body of work, titled ‘In The Company Of Shadows’, hopes to offer a nuanced and tender reading of intimacy – both emotional and physical – weaving a narrative around human connection and the power of touch.

The pieces favour abstraction, yet subtly allude to figuration. Curving, border-less forms draw the eye out of the bounds of the frame, with fluid lines and undulating, bodily forms gently rising and falling within the canvas.

I have used my signature colour palette of soft neutral tones and a contrasting inky midnight blue to create a series of artworks with heroic, streamlined silhouettes that loom large on the oversized canvases.

What’s the narrative you mention?

The collection is less about what is seen, but instead what is felt. Inspired by and hoping to capture the sensation of warm, supple bodies held together, a soft caress or the ache of a past memory that stirs within you late at night. Those feelings, those moments that follow you around like a shadow are the story.

What does art-making mean to you, and what do you hope to communicate?

For me personally my art-making is a way to connect and relate to others experiencing similar moments in time – things like becoming a mother for the first time and all of the emotions that comes with it.

Ultimately I like to think of my art as a celebration of womanhood and hope that this is communicated in each piece I create.

In The Company of Shadows opens online from Thursday October 28th – November 11th on Caroline’s website here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net