Caroline Walls’ latest series, A Thread to Find, is an intimate meditation on the various states of love, longing and identity. Intent on exploring the female body and psyche, her paintings of veiled female nudes are both highly reductive and unexpectedly sensual, sitting at the nexus of the public and private self. In her paintings, there is a sense of concealment and an alluring suggestion of what lies behind the veil.
Far from the highly abstract, minimalist works that Walls has explored in the past, A Thread to Find offers glimpses of bodily forms, draped with graphic fabrics. With radical cropping, Walls’ figures are disguised, providing a sense of ambiguity and secrecy. There is a delicate balance between revelation and covertness that reflects the ebb and flow of human connections and personal identity. Speaking to the duality of concealment and exposure in her work, Walls says: “Metaphorically, you could say intimacy and trust are part of the fabric of relationships, or love is part of the fabric of family, and with this in mind I have explored the use of fabrics and draping as the symbolic thread of these artworks – I’m interested in how much we reveal of ourselves to the outside world, and how this can create or diminish connection and intimacy between ourselves and others.”
In the age of social media, where selfhood is conflated with and ultimately effaced by self-promotion, the seduction of glorification undermines the truthfulness of self-expression. How do we share our authentic selves and what might that mean in the context of over-sharing? Walls’ work is both timely and auspicious in its empowering sensibility, where the inner world is guarded, even within its exposure. Walls’ use of a fluid, striped midnight-black and warm-white fabric as her veil of choice is poignant in this context. In terms of what we see and how we connect, it is not a case of decisive public and private, black and white. As the artist’s warm, neutral tones and soft brushstrokes suggest, there is tenderness and nuance in bids for connection and explorations of the self.
Informed by the artist’s personal experience as a woman, mother and partner, Walls’ reflections on intimacy and connection have an inherent feminine dialogue. The public and private self have long been tied to female and feminist discussions of the self and social interactions. Removing the political charge of such discussions and abstracting them as symbiotic and self-evident states of being, Walls speaks to the fabric – and the threads – of a more fluid sense of being.