Caroline Walls is a Melbourne based Visual Artist. Her work explores the complexity of the female identity using simplified forms to create highly abstracted yet gestural artworks. We visited her neutral-toned abode to chat about her creative career, the key themes explored in her work, and how she styles art in her home.
Hi Caroline! Can you tell us about yourself and what it is you do?
I am a visual artist living in inner-city Melbourne with my wife, Emma, and our daughter, Luna. Through my art practice, I like to explore themes of womanhood, sexuality, and personal identity.
Stripped back to the most essential line and shape, your work explores the complexity of the female identity and the reduction of its form as a way of heightening its expressive power. What inspired you to begin representing this subject matter in your practice?
I think it’s really a mixture of things that drew me into representing and interpreting the feminine in my practice. On a very basic level I really do love the aesthetics of the female form - its curves, solidness, its sensuality. But I’m also interested in what lies beneath the surface, I guess the unseen aspect of a woman that’s so easy to overlook. I am deeply curious about the notion of what it means to be a woman in today’s social and political climate, and how women have been represented in the past and what this representation looks like today.
Ultimately, I aim not to transcribe, but rather imply femininity and all that this word can carry with it; strength, fertility, fragility, sexuality, burden, and beauty. I love the process of simplifying forms to create highly abstracted yet hopefully gestural artworks that, although streamlined, still have 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.
After spending time working abroad in London and New York in design and fashion art direction you returned to Australia to start a creative career as an artist. In what ways do you think your background in design and fashion has influenced your art-making?
I like to think that with this background I come at my art practice with a deeper consideration for and understanding of composition, form, and colour. I hope to use these elements and principles to create pieces that are both harmonious and impactful. I also think it’s encouraged a contemporary approach to aesthetics and a sense of wanting to create a stronger visual narrative around my solo exhibitions.
You work across a variety of mediums including sculpture, print, drawing, and painting. Are there any new techniques you’d like to try in the future, where do you see your practice moving towards?
I’ve always loved the process of learning and so I’m very keen to delve further into creating three-dimensional sculptural works and learning about ways I could achieve the visual outcomes I hope to. So far I’ve started off small, creating hand-formed sculptures in clay but would love to learn the techniques of building much larger pieces in stone or resin. Exploring the different tactile and aesthetic qualities of each medium allows me to explore the same theme in new ways and I hope to continually evolve as an artist and not become stagnant. Looking to the future I’m currently working on a large twelve- metre long panelled painting and a new collection of detailed charcoal drawings that will come together to form my next exhibition.
What does your creative process look like?
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 brush to canvas but I always leave room for movement if I feel like the forms could work better or colours can be reworked.
Tell us about your workspace, in what ways does it inspire creativity?
Our living room and kitchen open onto my studio space which then flows onto our outdoor courtyard so it’s very much a communal living and working space. At the moment, this really works for me as it allows me to move between art-making and being a mum with ease. 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.
My essentials are my paints, brushes, charcoals, and paper – with these at hand everything is in order. I'm at my most creative in the mornings and this space receives beautiful, dappled morning light so I find it a really uplifting space to be in as I start my day.
You have a beautiful curation of artworks around your home, what are your top tips for styling art?
I love spaces that feel like they have a sense of warmth and richness so with this in mind I like to layer framed artworks together, leaning them against a sideboard, mantel, or along the floor to create little vignettes. This way of styling the art without hanging it directly onto the wall is also great for those that rent and have a little less freedom to nail into the walls. I like to think a home is an authentic and intimate expression of the person who lives in the space and should tell a little of their personal story. I do this by bringing together a culmination of our art, found objects, ceramics, and books we’ve collected over the years and grouping old and new pieces together to add a sense of character and depth. At the end of the day if you fill your house with pieces you genuinely love there is no right or wrong way of styling any given piece and it will create a meaningful space, rather than something that feels too generic.
Tell us about your little family, what are your favourite ways to spend time together?
The three of us love spending time outdoors and have been enjoying lots of walks together given we’ve been limited in what we can do. Before lockdown we often visited the museum, galleries, and the zoo together so we are very much looking forward to these reopening so we can have more of these kinds of adventures both here in Melbourne and on our travels. Our daughter, who’s just turned one, loves interacting with people so it’s incredibly fun to see her experience and discover new things about the world as she continues to grow.
When it comes to your personal style what are the pieces you wear every day?
I always dress in black or neutrally-toned pieces - something that I never set out to do but has evolved over time and now if I am in any other colour I don’t feel myself. I am entirely drawn to these tones and this aesthetic is reflected not only in the way I dress but in my art and home styling too. I love natural materials like wool, linen, and cotton and am drawn to simple, uncomplicated, silhouettes such as a knit with a wide leg pant or an oversized dress.
Tell us about your self-care practice - how do you nurture yourself?
This is something I am continually trying to work on - as many could attest to it's a real juggle finding time for yourself between motherhood and work - but music and movement are essential to my happiness and general wellbeing.