Caroline Walls is an Australian artist who works across a range of different media including painting, drawing, soft sculpture, and print-making. With the female form acting as a central theme to her works, Walls employs her distinctly fluid approach to create pieces that evoke a strong sense of colour play, line and form. We spoke with the artist about her love of the female, artistic inspirations and plans for the future.
Before becoming an artist, you worked as a designer and art director for luxury fashion and lifestyle brands. Why did you decide to make the change?
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. This kind of work and environment allowed me to really blend my interest in art, design and visual culture. 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
You’ve worked across a number of different disciplines. Is there a reason that you’ve gravitated to painting in more recent times?
My interest in working across multiple disciplines 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 given the varying tactile and aesthetic qualities of each medium. The choice of discipline 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.
Do you have a favourite type of media to work with?
I love the different qualities of both oil and synthetic polymer paint for different reasons but my synthetic polymer paintings are made up of lots of really thin layers of fluid paint so that the areas of colour are not just opaque but also very smooth across the canvas surface, which I’m enjoying at the moment.
The female form is a central focus throughout your works. Could you explain why this is such a prevailing theme?
In terms of my subject, 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 it’s been a love of mine for a long time. I am interested in the female, or the feminine and what this idea can evoke – notions of beauty, burden, strength, fragility and fertility. 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 today’s 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 choose do with our bodies, our 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 woman’s 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.
Do you have a favourite artwork that you’ve created?
I recently did a really minimal, reductive painting titled ‘Another Thought’ for my solo exhibition back in June – I felt it really encapsulated 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. I am 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 – I feel that this painting really responds to this and it feels authentically ‘me’.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days can be varied depending on whether I am working towards a particular exhibition or project but generally my day starts with answering all of my emails early morning so that I can focus on the creative work as soon as possible. My studio is at home so generally I’ll be in there from around 9am, where I’ll paint or draw for a few hours uninterrupted whilst listening to music. The afternoon often involves running around and doing errands at my printers and framers.
Did you ever believe your artistic passion would become your fulltime career?
Not at all, it was certainly a dream of mine so I worked hard to make it happen. My favourite saying is ‘Dreams are the seedlings of reality.’
You’ve lived overseas in NYC and London, before coming back to Australia to live in Melbourne. Do you think these placed have influenced your art?
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. I think I’m more influenced by the people around me and the women in my life, rather than any particular location.
Where do you seek inspiration for your work?
I am inspired by everyday human experiences, the fluidity and movement of the female form and the wonderful relationships I have with the women I surround myself with.
What’s coming up in the future?
I am working towards my second solo exhibition for the year, opening on November 8th at Saint Cloche Gallery in Sydney. I also have a few collaborations to be released over the next few months that are still under wraps. On a personal level, my partner and I are about to get married in NYC followed by a trip to London, Berlin and Italy so I’m seriously looking forward to that!
Caroline wears The Nighthawks Wrap Dress from Stevie May's Atelier 17' Collection - shop here.