Four years ago I visited an exhibition in London of photographs by Gregory Crewdson. It was an interesting body of work of often lonely figures, framed by windows, glass and reflections also playing a part. Before visiting the Caroline Walker exhibition in KM21 I wondered whether I might find some parallels.
Gregory Crewdson at the Photographers’ Gallery, London
Superficially there were some connections the framing devices and a certain voyeuristic peep into the domestic life of others. There were links too to Edward Hopper. But the bleak desolation of Crewdson and the melancholic loneliness present in so much of Hopper’s work were significantly absent in my experience of Walkers large and beautifully painted canvases.
Even when the themes of the paintings were the maids and cafe waitresses these images seemed to be presenting and observing simple moments in time. It doesn’t feel like the artist is passing judgement. It is more an observation of time and space. We the viewer are left to contemplate and reflect on the situation. They are paintings of our time, with the face masks being worn by the ladies in the bread shop.
In some of the compositions there was more than a little Vermeer to be found. Quiet domesticity, but above all-in a carefully constructed composition that had numerous grids, dividing lines and boundaries worked into the structure of the paintings, bringing more abstract qualities to the layout. Bars of colour along an edge seemed to often provide an illusionistic bridge between the pictorial spaces of William’s interiors and the interiors that we occupy when viewing the work. At one moment I found myself struck by the connection of the artists mother viewed through the kitchen window and the museum guard standing just a few feet away staring out of the gallery window.
These are paintings with simply a great deal to see and a great deal to enjoy. I loved the fluency and liquid qualities of the brushwork, but above all I loved the contrast that the careful division and sub-division of the painting into areas and zones. Windows, doorframes, edges of walls and windowsills are all put to work to bring a geometric order to the domesticity that has been depicted.