Caroline Walker - 20th Century to Now London Friday, June 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • “Although paintings are static I always want to create a sense of something moving, whether that’s a palm tree blowing in the breeze, the gentle rippling of water in a pool, or the suggestion of a person about to leave or enter a scene.”
    —Caroline Walker

    Dressed in identical swimming costumes, three women await the arrival of an unknown visitor in Caroline Walker’s Reception. With their faces either partially or completely obscured, two of the women are seated whilst the third opens the door. The seated women stare straight ahead with an almost statuesque rigidity, in symmetrical poses that are echoed by the surrounding furniture. In her exploration of ideas related to space and identity, Walker utilises a complex understanding of composition and art history, especially evident in the awkward, elevated perspective of the present work. Featured in her first solo exhibition at Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery in 2013, the work is taken from Walker’s In Every Dream Home series, which examines anonymous female domesticity within sleek, luxury environments. 


    Although we are only given a partial view into a small reception area, Walker conjures the illusion of more space by creating a room that is full of reflections. The pearlescent surface of the walls and floor mirror foggy impressions that are almost dreamlike; echoing the fleshy colour of the swimsuit-clad women in a way that ‘conveys a restrained and unexplained eroticism’.i Translucent curtains diffuse the bright light either side of the front door, adding to the sensual and illusory nature of the interior.


    ‘‘I find mirrors and reflective surfaces a very useful device for exploring the things that interest me in painting, particularly thinking about the mirror as a metaphor for the illusory space of painting itself.’’
    —Caroline Walker

    The existence of world beyond this interior is affirmed through the reflection in the round, convex mirror. Illustrative of Walker’s command of art historical references, this mirror is redolent of that featured in Jan van Eyck’s fifteenth-century masterpiece, The Arnolfini Portrait. The reflection of the figures and the room demonstrates not only van Eyck’s innovative use of perspective, but it also introduces a more complex narrative than our initial perception, with two additional figures appearing in the reflection. In the present work, the use of the convex reflection serves to draw the eye to the shock of bright azure and rich green. The viewer is confronted with an idealistic vision of the outdoors; there are no obstacles between our position in the hallway and the outdoors, yet the fact we cannot directly access this view gives it the quality of a mirage. The distortion of the convex reflection stands in sharp contrast to the symmetry of the interior and augments the phantasmagorical atmosphere of the piece.


    Walker’s work often asks more narrative questions than it answers, and Reception is emblematic of this. The scene is of three women answering the door, and yet it has a surreal quality that leaves us with the impression that everything is not as it seems. The result is a thought-provoking and cerebral piece, bathed in the glossy aesthetic of the luxurious surroundings that are typical of the In Every Dream Home series.



    i Marco Livingstone, Caroline Walker: In Every Dream Home, Wakefield, 2013, pg. 5

    • Provenance

      Project B, Milan
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Pitzhanger Manor Gallery, In Every Dream Home, 18 July - 8 September 2013, p. 52 (illustrated, p. 53)



signed, titled and dated ''RECEPTION' Caroline Walker 2013' on the reverse
oil on linen
180.4 x 250.6 cm (71 x 98 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£150,000 - 200,000 ‡♠

Sold for £177,800

Contact Specialist

Leonor de Osma
Head of Sale, 20th Century to Now
T +44 20 7901 7912
M +44 7584 086 052

20th Century to Now

London Auction 30 June 2023