Evocative feminine shapes and subtle colours of Melbourne based artist Caroline Walls' body of work first caught our eye in July 2017. With our common aesthetics embracing minimalism and a streamlined colour palette, we launched the process of a collaboration to adorn our Building Block basics. The concept is simple yet powerfully universal: in a world where women's bodies keep on being mistreated, we wanted to inspire confidence and empowerment by showcasing the works of an artist who puts the female body in focus.
Story photographed by Tasha Tylee.
You have a beautiful home which also doubles as your studio. How do you separate the two spaces?
On both a physical and figurative level there isn’t much of a separation between the two spaces. Our living room and kitchen opens onto my main studio which then flows onto our outdoor courtyard so it’s very much one and the same space. At the moment, this really works for me creatively speaking and allows me to create really efficiently when I need to or whenever I get the urge. Our home is layered with art, objects and books we’ve collected over the years - this includes my own artworks - so having my studio space in such an open area of the house feels quite natural.
Working from home can be quite challenging, how do you keep focus and avoid procrastination?
I was lucky enough to have a real sense of self-motivation instilled in me by my family ever since I was little so finding focus and drive when pursuing my own creative work has never been a problem. Certainly, in the past when I wasn’t art-making full time that focus could easily go out the window when I was working on something that didn’t hold my attention but now that I work autonomously for myself I find I’m entirely passionate so it’s more of a problem switching off than procrastinating! Having spoken with my peers who have a similar working environment, they often mention they miss interacting with people throughout the day but I’m fortunate to work with a number of local creatives on a regular basis, such as my framer and printers, so I’m often running around the neighborhood meeting with various people at some stage most days.
Take us through your creative process...
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 colours I’d like to use before beginning a new series. In this sense, I much prefer to work on a collection of works at once 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 colours can be reworked.
How has your aesthetic evolved and what influenced its progression?
As I’ve continued to develop my art practice I’ve moved towards a more abstracted response to the bodily forms I create, whereas when I initially began my paintings and drawings were much more literal in their depiction of a body, a breast, or an arm for instance. The works were very obviously figurative whereas now my figures and forms aren’t so easily perceived or understood. I’m not really sure if anything influenced the progression as such, 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. In saying that there has been consistency in the colour palette I work with - I have always been drawn to the colours I use so it’s unlikely that I would ever create works using bold bright primary colours for instance as these don’t resonate with me. Not only in my art-making but also how I choose to dress and what I surround myself with in our home.
What role does colour play in your works?
Colour and the very subtle nuances in the colour palettes I create are paramount to the work I produce. My use of line and form are minimal, bold and quite abstract so I look to colour to add depth and a sense of softness and often an element of femininity to my pieces. The tones I mix take a lot of playing around to get them exactly how I want them as there is real intention behind my colour schemes which aim to resonate with the natural milk and oak tones of supple nude skin.
Tell us about the works used in our collaboration:
The two paintings used in the collaboration, titled Calling Out of Context and This Must Be the Place, formed part of my Another Thought collection I created for my solo exhibition earlier in the year. The physical works are large-scale paintings on canvas and are an abstracted response to the female form.
The female form is prominent in your work. What role do you think art has to play in the fight in gender equality?
I really love this idea of female artists representing and interpreting the female nude - think Marlene Dumas, Tracey Emin, Kerstin Drechsel. 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 recognised as a means to stand for equality. The lines, curves and shapes that make up the female form that I use in my own art are a way for me to celebrate the notion of the female - I am deeply curious about the way gender lines and sexuality plays into our understanding and approach to the world around us. As a woman, I have a firsthand understanding of how the female body feels, both in the physical and psychological sense - where as a male artist can only understand the female body observationally. In today’s social and political climate art is a really important and powerful tool for women artists to express their true and clear voice. There is a wonderful documentary titled 'Women Art Revolution’ that explores the rise of the women’s art community during the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s which I think underscores how far we have come but also highlights that we need to keep the conversation of reaching true gender equality going and art really is a powerful vehicle for achieving this.
What political issues are concerning you at the moment?
The current state of affairs are quite dire in Australian politics at present on a really broad range of social issues but on a very personal level the government has released a non-binding postal survey to pose the question ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’. The vote has already caused so much vitriol and hatred towards the LGBTQIA community (as if the last 60+ years hasn’t been enough!) when in actual fact it should’ve been passed in parliament without the need for this divisive poll. It has been deeply hurtful for our community as well as our friends and families who support us. Needless to say, the AU$122 million dollars wasted on the survey would have been much better spent on the current homelessness epidemic in Australia or the state schools that are in desperate need of funding.
You have just opened your second solo exhibition in Sydney - Maybe She. What themes can we expect to see?
The defining theme and inspiration for my art practice is the notion of the ‘female’ and all that this can carry with it — strength, sexuality, fragility, sensuality, fertility, burden and beauty. The female form has always played an integral part in my artistic practice and these works are a continuation of this study. This collection of large-scale paintings on canvas look to the female silhouette - reducing the form to its most essential in order to heighten its expressive power. The show will be on at Saint Cloche Gallery in Paddington, Sydney until November 19th 2017.
What does being creative mean to you?
For me being creative is a certain way of thinking and responding to life - it’s having an openness and sense of curiosity about the world around me. I think my sense of creativity informs not just my art practice but how I interact with my friends and loved ones and how I approach my day to day life. Creativity is freedom.