Artist Caroline Walls in her studio with large, beige and black striped paintings on canvas.

Caroline Walls talks about her ongoing mission to depict the female form, as well as her day-to-day inspirations.

Where are you from and where do you reside?

Although born in Auckland, New Zealand, I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. After finishing university I lived between London and New York for five years or so, but I have now returned to Melbourne.

Your work spans drawings, paintings, prints, and soft sculpture - how do you choose your materials?

Paint, both oil and synthetic polymer, as well as charcoal and graphite are my go-to mediums – they all have their own personalities and quirks so I enjoy exploring my ideas with all of these. Although, in saying that, I do love the immediacy of putting graphite pencil or charcoal to paper. My works are very spontaneous so pencil allows me to work quickly, with little preparation, I can work anywhere I like - in the studio or while I am traveling.

How important is spontaneity in your art?

No two curves or lines are ever the same when creating my charcoal and graphite drawings. The work is very spontaneous and I never know what the final piece will look like until it’s already down on the paper. Unlike my paintings that use a more considered approach to composition, color, and line.

Artist Caroline Walls painting a black and beige canvas in her studio.
Beige and black floral painting on canvas by artist Caroline Walls.

Describe a typical day in the studio for you.

I work fairly intuitively and on a number of artworks at any given time - I never seem to be able to stick to one particular medium or material either. Although the one constant across the different types of work I create is always the theme - the female form.

Music is a must, PJ Harvey is on repeat at the moment, and I am very much a daytime work, I tend to get my best work done during the early morning when I am feeling fresh.

When did you begin your current practice?

My current practice that is focused on the female form began in 2014 when I began my post-grad in visual art.

Why do you choose to work with nudes? When did you start?

I think it is really a mixture of things that drew me in to representing and interpreting the body in my art practice. I really do love the aesthetics of the female form, its curves, solidness, its sensuality. But I’m also interested in what lies beneath the surface, I guess the unseen aspect of a person that’s so easy to overlook. There was never really a conscious moment that I thought to myself "the female form - that’s my subject matter" - it was just a really organic thing.

I am inspired by everyday human experiences and the fluidity of the female body - this can come from walking down the street, a beautiful film.

Caroline Walls

How do the different elements of line come together in your works?

These charcoal drawings were created when I was exploring what happens when you really break-down and reduce the lines and shapes that make up the female form, in order to heighten the expressive power. Pushing the lines to abstraction but in a way that they still hold a sense of what they are representing.

What for you are the defining characteristics of that form? What makes forms feminine, as opposed to masculine?

For me, it's less about the more obvious physical attributes of a female - the breasts, rounded hips and thighs, curves on curves on curves, etc - rather, it’s the feeling of the feminine/masculine self. I like to think females and males possess both elements of the feminine and masculine within themselves. Ultimately I think it is a feeling I’m to imbue into my works rather than a more obvious physicality.

Why is it important to focus on the female form?

As a woman myself, I really like this idea of females representing and interpreting the female. If you look back through the history books, it is rare to find works that depict the female nude form by a female artist. Instead, women are only seen and depicted through the eyes of a male, so I think in that sense it’s incredibly important that female artists continue to explore what is truly ours.

Artist Caroline Walls sculpting clay in her studio.
Female sketches on paper in artist Caroline Walls' studio.

Being a woman, do you feel a deep connection to your artwork that highlights women? How so?

Absolutely - given I have a firsthand understanding of how the female body can move, curve, feel, both in the physical sense as well as the psychological sense I do feel more connected to myself and my works. I am deeply curious about the notion of what it means to be a women in today’s social and political climate, and how women are represented in our current cultural sphere.

Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?

I am inspired by everyday human experiences and the fluidity of the female body - this can come from walking down the street, a beautiful film. Some of my newer pieces I am currently working on also look at sculpture and ceramic works of the 1930s and 40s. I love their simplicity of form.

What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?

I am an avid collector of hand-made ceramics - my home is testament to that. I’m looking forward to growing my collection further as my love for these objects shows no signs of slowing down. My favorite piece is a small glazed bowl made by a local Melbourne ceramist that is beautiful and irregular in form. My partner gave it to me with a ring in it when proposing just recently - a very happy story I think!

I’m also interested in what lies beneath the surface, I guess the unseen aspect of a person that’s so easy to overlook.

Caroline Walls

Do you see your drawings in charcoal or graphite as sketches, or something else?

Although my work is spontaneous, I think they my line work is a little more considered than a sketch. Each mark I make is a direct and considered decision to define the form, create a structure and create a sense of emotion and essence, leading the eye from one part of the work to another.

Are you formally trained? Did you go to art school?

I have always had a keen interest in the arts whether it be visual art, film or music and having completed an honors degree in Communication Design I began working in large-scale International fashion and lifestyle brand agencies as a graphic designer and art director. After five years abroad, I finally felt it was time to explore my own art practice away from clients and design briefs, so I returned to Melbourne, Australia and enrolled in a post-grad in Visual Arts. This was only a year long and was quite ‘hands-off’ so I wouldn’t say I wasn’t formally trained.

What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?

I would like my works to feel like a celebration of woman’s sensuality and strength.

Abstract figurative drawings on paper with pencil by artist Caroline Walls.
Large, beige and black striped paintings on canvas in artist Caroline Walls' studio.

Post updated May 22, 2024.