Caroline Walker - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “Making these works really opened my eyes to the idea of invisibility, of those overlooked lives in the city around us and about who occupies what spaces and at what times. This led to me becoming interested in women working in service industry jobs, particularly retail, hospitality and cleaning, often professions dominated by a female labour force, but which are largely taken for granted or, in the case of hotel housekeeping, designed to be unseen.”
    — Caroline Walker

    In Cleaned, Scottish artist Caroline Walker takes the viewpoint of a passer-by or a distant observer to create this melancholic and soft-lighted scene of a solitary female figure standing by the glass façade of an empty office. The partial darkness, artificial lights and shadows which characterise this painting, executed in 2017, suggest that this placid interval is taking place in the late evening. A desk chair, standard office furniture, suspended ceilings and computer monitors compose the office setting, of which the woman portrayed within the glass frame seems to be the last occupant, almost ready to leave the indoor space after a long working day.


    The glass walls, bordered with neatly defined black contours, resemble feebly illuminated windows, and make the entire scene appear as a staged reality constrained within an enclosed and vaguely anguishing space, unscrupulously served to the avid eyes of consumers.


    “The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.’”
    — Taken from Susan Sontag’s On Photography (1977)


    In Walker’s paintings, women’s experience and perspectives are presented in a way that feels at once discreet and intrusive: her women subjects seem unaware of the external viewer who is looking at them, and yet the artist gives an insight of such intimate and private moments, that this inspection could be perceived as an undesirable interference. This sense of voyeurism is perhaps all the more heightened by the artist’s working method, whereby initial photographs serve as inspiration for her eventual pieces, not dissimilar to snapshots of private lives.


    “There is definitely a strong sense of voyeurism in my work. I’m interested in challenging the position of the viewer, particularly in relation to my female subjects…there’s a sense that you could almost step into the scene. I don’t want the paintings to feel like pictures of something that’s happening somewhere else. I want you to feel like you’re involved or implicated in what’s going on.”
    — Caroline Walker



    A close-up of Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, Andreas Grusky, 1994


    Cleaned, whose evocative title could refer to the empty office, now “cleaned” of its workers and diurnal activities, or the actions performed by the woman who perhaps herself, is cleaning the interior space– portrays a female figure in a curious, partially reclined and slightly fatigued pose in an after-work office environment. This scene is reminiscent of the images of the German photographer Andreas Gursky, and specifically of the first picture of his series titled Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (1994), taken at the HSBC Headquarters in the city. In Gursky and Walker’s works, tiny bodies move across empty office spaces, absorbed in their own thoughts or tasks. Inserted within these architectural structures, human subjects appear almost insignificant in relation to the space they occupy.


    Unlike Gursky’s figures in Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, however, in Cleaned the Scottish painter masterfully manages to keep the audience’s focus on the woman, who stands in the brightest portion of the painting, and could hardly leave the viewers indifferent with her distant, humble, yet majestic presence. Sumptuously rendered in cool-toned hues, Cleaned exemplifies Walker’s ongoing body of work documenting the lives of women at work, as she pays testament to these women through immortalising them and reinstating their value through paint on canvas.


    Walker lives and works in London. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Arts. Her work has been exhibited in a solo show at ProjectB Gallery in Milan (26 May 2017 – 30 June 2017) and more recently, at Stephen Friedman Gallery in London (29 April 2022 – 28 May 2022). A new body of her large-scale paintings were presented at the Fitzrovia Chapel in London (18 February 2022 – 4 March 2022). Another work by Caroline Walker, The Masquerade (2012), will be sold in our forthcoming Evening Sale on 1 December.


    • Provenance

      ProjectB Gallery, Milan
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Milan, ProjectB Gallery, Caroline Walker: Night Scenes, 25 May – 30 July 2017



signed, titled and dated '"CLEANED" 2017 Caroline Walker' on the reverse
oil on board
42.1 x 50 cm. (16 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2017, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and issued by ProjectB Gallery.

Full Cataloguing

HK$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for HK$504,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022