Carlton North, Melbourne
Graphite strokes, unexpected curves and subtle, fleshy tones; these are all indicative of the works of Caroline Walls. Her paintings, inspired by all aspects of the female form, are approached with curiosity and a way of interpretation that is as fresh as it is invigorating. We spent an afternoon with Caroline in her Carlton North home, eager to learn more about her practice.
You create these hypnotic paintings and drawings with the female form as your subject – you seem to see the individual lines and shapes of this form that most of us would miss. How and when did you centre in on this subject as the theme throughout your practice?
Always really, I can’t remember a time when I haven’t enjoyed drawing and painting the female form, since really engaging in art. My parents have two pieces of mine on their walls, one is a painting I did of a nude woman when I was 14 and the other is a silkscreen of a nude I did last year (I’m now 32). I’ve always loved seeing how other female artists represent the female nude..the works of Marlene Dumas, Bourgeois, Cecily Brown, Tracey Emin. I love the idea of women representing and interpreting women rather than men interpreting women. I think women can come at it on an entirely different level, we can look at the form from the inside out, at a psychological level, rather than from a purely physical perspective.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio routine, if you have one?
Before I start my day in the studio I like to have all the menial tasks done and out of the way, such as writing emails and packaging and shipping out artworks so that I am fully focused and present when getting started on the creative work. I tend to write a list of my objectives for the day so that I stay focused and get the most out of my studio time. I love to listen to music, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of PJ Harvey and Arthur Russell. If it’s not music I have a real fondness for The Moth podcast that presents beautiful stories of real people’s lives. I’ll work solidly for a few hours before wandering up the street for a short break. I’ll then spend the afternoon working away until about 5 when my mind starts to slow down. I am quite structured in how I allocate my time and mornings have always been when I am most productive.
Did you study art in school?
Sort of…straight out of high school I went on to do an Honours degree in Visual Communication and worked as an art director and designer for fashion and lifestyle brands for a number of years. In 2014 whilst still working in that industry I did a year-long post-graduate certificate in Visual Arts outside of work hours as a way to explore my creativity without the constraints of client briefs and commercial outcomes and that’s lead me to take up art-making full-time.
You lived and worked in London and New York for a while, what brought you back to Melbourne?
My family and friends were my main motivation behind my return to Melbourne and I certainly feel like I made the right decision. Melbourne has allowed me to lead an autonomous creative lifestyle that I don’t think I would have been able to manage overseas, there is a certain community support for artists and small-businesses here that is truly unique.
Melbourne has allowed me to lead an autonomous creative lifestyle that I don’t think I would have been able to manage overseas, there is a certain community support for artists and small-businesses here that is truly unique.
What do you like to do to wind down?
I love nothing more than catching up with my partner and friends over a wine – I love good conversation and it’s the perfect wind-down after a busy day. I’m also a serious film goer so will often head to the cinema as a bit of an escape – fortunately my favourite independent cinema, Cinema Nova, is very nearby our home.
Where are some of your places you like to go in your neighbourhood?
I’m pretty lucky to live in an area that has so much goodness on its doorstep. My favourite local is Neighbourhood Food and Wine in Fitzroy North – it’s a perfect spot for a delicious meal and a cocktail in a really charming atmosphere. Edinburgh Gardens is great for a lazy walk with a coffee, Babajan cafe with a Middle Eastern menu has just recently opened right around the corner and I think it does the best breakfast in Melbourne (big call!). Gertrude Street and the city are only a few tram stops away so we’ll often go see an exhibition, have a little shop and get a bite to eat.
Can you tell us about some of the pieces in your home, and the stories behind them?
Home is a real culmination of art, objects and furniture we’ve collected on our travels over the years both together and separately. A favourite black and white print hangs in the living room of two naked ladies standing at a fence that I picked at a flea market in Amsterdam years ago that’s travelled with me to my homes in London, Melbourne, NYC and back to Melbourne so there is real sentimentality there. I am also a mad ceramic collector and I have some beautiful Melbourne-made pieces by local ceramists that have been gifted to me over the years, alongside some perfect finds from op-shops here and there. Art books are my most prized possession – I love looking over them and rediscovering something new amongst the pages..I’ve accrued lots of excess baggage fees over the year because of these books.
Art books are my most prized possession – I love looking over them and rediscovering something new amongst the pages..I’ve accrued lots of excess baggage fees over the year because of these books.
What is your morning routine?
My partner, Emma, has a cafe with her sister a little outside of Melbourne so she’s up very early most mornings, I’ll wake up with her and have a little chat before going back to sleep for another hour or two. I’ll then make a tea that I take back to bed. I have my notebook on my bedside table that I use to write my to do list so I’ll look over that and ponder my day before jumping in the shower about 8am.
We always go to bed at the same time and chat about our day, Emma will fall asleep (very!) early and I’ll watch a film or catch up on emails if I’ve been in the studio all day. Our cat, Major Tom, has the routine down pat also and will be asleep on the end of our bed all night.
What do you love to make for dinner on a Sunday evening?
I’ll buy some fresh linguine or pappardelle and make a yummy pasta sauce with lots of freshly grated parmigiano. More often than not it’s a classic bolognese or ragu, served with a simple rocket salad.
What are you working on now?
I have a solo exhibition opening on June 15th at Modern Times in Fitzroy, Melbourne called Another Thought. Needless to say I have my head down in the studio working on lots of new large-scale paintings on canvas based on simplifying and abstracting the female form. There is a lot to do in the lead up but I’m really looking forward to it!