News / Caroline Walker - Part 5 - Scale, Architecture and Illusions

Caroline Walker - Part 5 - Scale, Architecture and Illusions

In order to maintain the position of the viewer as implicit, my paintings became progressively larger as the scale of the architecture I painted became grander. 'Illuminations', my painting in the first room of 'Reality' is both the largest painting I've ever made, and the one that describes the largest architectural space. This one really tested the limits of what I can achieve in my studio!

The scale is always dictated by designing a space, which the viewer feels they are already in, could walk into or are surreptitiously spying on. Coming back to the relationship with film, I think about how I want viewers to move around a gallery space and how this operates narratively with the play between the large paintings, or 'establishing shots' and the 'close-up' – smaller works which bring certain objects or characters into focus.

'Illuminations' and 'Consulting the Oracle' are both part of a series which drew very much on Neo-Modernist architecture as its starting point. My interest in this was really a formal one to begin with. The rectilinear nature of such architecture gave me an interesting structure in which to place the figure and there was a continual reference, through the repeated geometric structures, back to the frame of the painting itself. The open-plan living of these houses created frames within frames so that the house became almost like a doll's house, where several spaces could be seen at once. It wasn't until I started researching more about Modernist architecture that I found it was conceptually relevant to my work as well.

The Modernist project in the home was a rejection of the dark cluttered spaces of the nineteenth-century bourgeois home and everything it stood for: secrecy, possession and accumulation. Modernism stripped all this back to create purity and transparency in design, intended to inspire a moral purity in its inhabitants. Dark interiors were replaced with glass walls blurring the boundaries between exterior and interior space so that the once private space of the home was suddenly for public viewing. The German writer Heider Weidmann, when writing about Modernist architecture, described the Modernist house as destroying the proprietor's biotope, exhibiting the inmates as if in a theatre. This idea of presenting the house as both stage and prison is something that really interests me in relation to the play between public and private in my work.

This feeling extends to the exterior garden spaces. Although the subject of my paintings often moves outside, the boundaries of the domestic remain ever present in the walls and hedges that separate the scene and the protagonists from the outside world.

My interest in painting constructed spaces is related to the way I approach painting itself.

I use various techniques and devices, playing with the relationship between the illusionism of representational painting and its materiality. Mirrors, glass, Tromp l'oeil wallpapers, paintings within paintings juxtaposed with human figures, and 'real' landscapes exist side by side, but are all 'sets' of one sort or another. I'm often referring back to these pictorial tricks of perception by trying to set up complex relationships in the paintings between what can be seen to be 'real' and what is an illusion.

Pictorial deceptions are what I enjoy most in all my favourite paintings. Whether it's Manet's 'A Bar at the Folies Bergere' or Velazquez's 'Las Meninas' its the combination of complex perspectival space, social commentary and human interest, captured with a paint handling which continually reminds you of it's material substance on a flat surface which for me is one of the most exciting things a painting can do and why it is still such a valuable medium for capturing the reality of the world around us.