Caroline Walker - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'My paintings are formalised fictions concerned with the strange or ambiguous which can arise in the everyday and the banal. They explore the notion of disappointed expectations and a kind of faded grandeur of what could have been.' —Caroline Walker

    Strikingly cinematic in its compositional balance, luminously saturated palette, and charged narrative power, Afters captures the tensions between public and private, ambiguity and the everyday that energises Scottish artist Caroline Walker’s most compelling paintings. Executed on a commanding scale and depicting a woman resting across an elegantly curved metal-framed sofa, a stiletto and watermelon slice casually discarded on the floor beside her, the atmosphere is languorous and intimate, Walker capturing a moment of stillness and solitude that falls between the day’s activities.


    Drawn to painting women since she was a young child, Walker takes these quiet moments of unguarded honesty, often of women at work or in their domestic environments, and transforms them into studies in contemporary feminine interiority, carefully blending the eerie stillness of Vilhelm Hammershøi, the voyeuristic frisson of Edward Hopper’s lonely visions of mid-century urbanity, and the understated intimacy of Pierre Bonnard’s portraits.


     Edward Hopper, Room in Brooklyn, 1932, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image: © 2022 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All rights reserved / The Hayden Collection, Charles Henry Hayden Fund / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Heirs of Josephine Hopper/ Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York/DACS, London 2022

    In this respect, the architectural settings of her paintings also take on special significance, at once framing her subjects and standing in for the intimate boundaries ‘between public behaviour and private space’ that Walker’s paintings ask us to explore.i More complex in its compositional arrangement than it might at first appear, Afters plays with this spatial ambiguity, taking as its setting the shaded outdoor terrace of a glamourous Palm Springs home, the rigid geometry of the concrete floor and structure of the building acting as both framing device and as a means of amplifying questions of agency, observation, and the politics of looking that characterises the Palm Springs series to which this work belongs. Caught between the house and the lawn, the terrace occupies a space between inside and outside that is strangely representative of Walker’s own position, and the careful balance of intimacy and intrusion that she maintains in her exquisitely handled paintings.


     Installation shot of the present work included in The Racquet Club, GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam, 2016. Image: Noortje Knulst. Courtesy of the Artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam | New York, Artwork: © Caroline Walker. All rights reserved, DACS 2022
    Installation shot of the present work included in The Racquet Club, GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam, 2016. Image: Noortje Knulst. Courtesy of the Artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam | New York, Artwork: © Caroline Walker. All rights reserved, DACS 2022


    Palm Springs

    First developed as a playground for Hollywood’s rich and famous in the 1920s, Palm Springs quickly became synonymous with an ideal of American wealth, beauty, and glamour, compounded by the concentration of architecturally innovative and airy modernist houses complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, manicured lawns, and inviting turquoise pools immortalised in Slim Aaron’s photographs of the mid-century jet-setting elite. As a man-made desert oasis, Palm Springs is at once artificial and alluring, occupying a space between reality and fantasy that holds particular power for Walker, and formed the conceptual focus of the Palm Springs series, first presented in her 2016 exhibition The Racquet Club with GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam.


    Slim Aarons, Poolside Gossip, 1970, Getty Images. Image: Slim Aarons/Stringer/Getty Images
    Slim Aarons, Poolside Gossip, 1970. Image: Slim Aarons/Stringer/Getty Images


    Boasting Hollywood royalty Humphry Bogart, Errol Flynn, and Lana Turner amongst its members, the Racquet Club was first opened as an exclusive private tennis club in 1934. A notorious spot known for its glamourous excess, The Racquet Club eventually fell into disrepair before being demolished in the twilight years of the 20th century, a story of faded grandeur particularly well-suited to Walker’s interest in the intersections of femininity and glamour and the gap between our ideas of paradise and the banality of its everyday reality. Reimagining this space, and the people who might occupy it, Walker meticulously builds her nuanced narratives through a combination of real and imagined locations, found imagery, memory, and the carefully staged photoshoots that are central to her practice.


    Photographic Time and Slow Looking


    Just as Pierre Bonnard and Edgar Degas both engaged with new photographic technologies as a way of advancing their painterly experiments and the ‘bold, sometimes apparently off-kilter compositions that suggest fleeting moments of day-today existence and of people captured off-guard going about their daily activities’, Walker too makes sophisticated use of these tools in her practice.ii Placing us in the position of the unseen observer, Walker’s awkwardly elevated perspectives and cropped angles create the impression of a fleeting glance or snapshot, compositional strategies developed directly from these staged photographs which she then works up into pencil drawings and oil sketches.


    [Left] Photograph of Caroline Walker's source material. Artwork: © Caroline Walker. All rights reserved, DACS 2022
    [Right] Detail of the present work


    Although, as Walker explains, her paintings often include ‘something you have to look through or past to get to the subject of the work […] like a voyeur I suppose, looking in on others’ lives’, these architectural obstacles are not simply formal devices, but introduce a vital sense of distance between us and the private worlds we are intruding upon that is as temporal as it is spatial.iii  Creating a very deliberate tension between the photograph’s sense of fleeting immediacy and the much slower process of painting, Walker ensures that our eye has to travel that much further to reach the reclining woman cocooned within the layers of luminous green at the centre of the present work. Connecting inside and outside, reality and fantasy, Afters is a work deeply interested in the art historical legacies of representing women, and of the processes and politics of looking itself, although Walker makes sure we never intrude too far.


    Collector’s Digest

    • Since graduating from her MA with the Royal College of Art in 2009, Walker has been the subject of several solo exhibitions internationally, including Janey at Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh in 2020, Women’s Work at the Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham in 2021, and the forthcoming exhibition at K11 in Shanghai in November 2022.

    • Following her exhibition Caroline Walker: Birth Reflections held at Fitzrovia Chapel, London in the early months of 2022, Walker’s latest solo show, Lisa, at Stephen Freidman Gallery presented a deeply intimate series of portraits documenting her sister-in-law’s journey through the first months of motherhood.

    • Walker’s works are included in a number of prominent public collections, including the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, The UK Government Art Collection, London, and Kunstmuseum in The Hague.


    i Caroline Walker in conversation with Marco Livingstone, in Caroline Walker, Caroline Walker: Picture Window, London, 2018, p. 249.

    ii Marco Livingstone, ‘A Painter of Modern Life’, Caroline Walker and Marco Livingstone, Caroline Walker: Picture Window, London, 2018, p. 11.

    iii Caroline Walker, quoted in ‘Caroline Walker: Windows’ interview for Studio Roodenburch Courtesy of KM21, The Hague, 2021, online.

    • Provenance

      GRIMM Gallery, Amsterdam
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Amsterdam, GRIMM Gallery, The Racquet Club, 2 September - 9 October 2016

    • Literature

      Caroline Walker and Marco Livingstone, Caroline Walker: Picture Window, London, 2018, pp. 228-229, 305 (illustrated)



signed, titled and dated ''AFTERS' Caroline Walker 2016' on the reverse
oil on linen
180 x 270 cm (70 7/8 x 106 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £315,000

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022