Through sensual abstractions, Melbourne-based artist Caroline Walls reifies feminine beauty like no other. Twisting limbs and folding skin depict the female body through a distinctly feminine lens that reveres every lump, bump and hump with equal earnestness.
Raw yet conceptual, Walls’ female-centric art ironically projects a degree of honesty that is sadly rare amongst historic representations of women and their bodies. We caught up with Caroline to size up some of world’s best art scenes, dissect the value of higher education for aspiring artists, and discuss Walls’ creative fixation with nips (‘cause we already know what Freud would say).
Suggestive curves and shapes within Caroline Walls’ artworks capture the unique and inherent beauty of the naked female form, idolising it’s imperfections.
HAPPY: When did you first become interested in art?
CAROLINE: I have always had a very keen interest in the visual arts whether it be painting, film, music, and so on. I was the kid that was always drawing or making something.
HAPPY: What drove your career switch from designer to artist?
CAROLINE: I don’t think there was one particular thing that drove the switch, but rather a culmination of ideas running through my head! I was very keen for some creative autonomy. Having spent many years answering to briefs from clients, I finally felt it was time to explore my own art practice so I enrolled in a post-grad in Visual Arts at VCA, which I completed while working full-time. One thing lead to another and I realised if I really committed to the idea, I could make full-time art making a viable option.
HAPPY: You recently collaborated with Well Made Clothes to produce a design for a tote bag for International Women’s Day. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
CAROLINE: Well Made Clothes are working on an amazing project alongside Freeset for Gender Equality in fashion. One aspect of this project is the Gender Equal Tote bag project which they asked me to design with one of my artworks. Profits from the sale of these bags will be donated to Freeset, a certified organic and fair trade company which employs women saved from Kolkata’s sex slavery industry. I played a very small part in what is such an amazing project by Well Made Clothes.
HAPPY: Having lived in three of arguably the most artistic cities in the world (namely; Melbourne, London and NYC), which do you think has the most to offer an aspiring artist?
CAROLINE: Impossible to compare! All have such amazing and unique art communities, as well as the obvious larger art institutions like The Tate, MoMa and NGV. For me though, the ease and my creative network in Melbourne inspires and allows me to work on my art full-time. I am not sure I would have that luxury in London or NYC.
HAPPY: Do you think travelling is key to retaining a sense of creativity?
CAROLINE: I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally travelling is essential to gaining insight, learning and growing as a person, and for my art practice.
HAPPY: Do you think higher education is simply a piece of paper you can show potential employers, or do you believe it truly enables artists to fulfil their full potentials?
CAROLINE: This is a tricky one to answer – I did my degree in Communication Design, which I do think was a necessary step to reaching my full potential in design and art direction. However, when it comes to Visual Art degrees, I think it’s more of a grey area. An element of it has to come from within and can’t be taught. Personally, I loved studying. I think universities have so much to offer people.
HAPPY: What draws you to the female form?
CAROLINE: It’s been my main area of exploration since I was about 14. I’ve always loved seeing how other female artists represent the form. Marlene Dumas, Louise Bougouis, Tracey Emin… I think I like the idea of women representing women, rather than men representing women, which is all you see in history books.
HAPPY: Irrespective of sexual orientation and gender, I think most people find the female body more beautiful than the male body, but I’m not sure whether this is because it objectively is, or whether we’ve all just internalised some version of the male gaze which has historically dominated popular culture and beauty trends. What do you think is the case?
CAROLINE: I can’t speak for everyone else on this one, I’ve always gravitated to the female form (I’m soon to be married to my girlfriend!) so for me it is, and always has been, more beautiful than the male form. I love drawing and painting the female because of the fluidity of it’s form and the way it curves and moves across the canvas, or paper.
HAPPY: Your work features a lot of boobs n’ nipples. Do you think bare breasts are inherently sexual, or have they been over-sexualised within Western culture?
CAROLINE: When I see nudity or boobs and nipples in art I think about sensuality and beauty of form, rather than seeing the piece as overtly sexual (or not). I think in the current cultural sphere of advertising and social media things have become over-sexualised but I don’t think the same rules apply when it comes to art. I think there are so many layers to sexuality, and exploration of this in art is so important.
HAPPY: You exhibited some work at The Ladies Network’s latest endeavour, Nobody’s Baby. Why did you decide to get involved?
CAROLINE: I showed two pieces from my new print collection She & Her. They are abstracted explorations of the female form. I love the idea that The Ladies Network are so supportive of the female art community, and run solely by women.
HAPPY: What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any solo exhibitions in the pipeline?
CAROLINE: Yes! It’s still very much in the pipeline, but I will be having a solo show at some point during the second half of 2017.