Caroline Walker: A Woman Sewing

Installation Views
Press release

GRIMM is pleased to announce the inaugural exhibition of the season in Amsterdam with a new solo show by Caroline Walker. This marks the artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery.

Presented in Amsterdam is a new series of paintings by Caroline Walker (b. 1982, UK) that continue the theme of women at work. After making a painting of a tailor glimpsed from the street, featured in the exhibition at GRIMM New York last year, the artist now enters the workshop and shadows the women while they work. Unlike many other scenes in which she has depicted women at work within the public, commercialized spaces of the city, these new paintings show the focused craft of bespoke tailoring within the private confines of subterranean workshops and the cutting room above – the women are seen entirely absorbed in their work, not part of the public life of the city.

The visual language of the workshop – all the tools, equipment and personal mementos seen at each workbench – become part of an abstract painterly language that conjures up the atmosphere of these cluttered interiors. One of the things that interests Walker about women working in this profession in particular is the reference to a recurring subject in genre painting throughout the history of western art – that of a woman sewing. Examples are found in Dutch Golden Age painting – Johannes Vermeer, Caspar Netscher, Nicolaes Maes and in the 19th-century such as Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot or Vilhelm Hammershoi. All of these genre paintings depict women sewing in homes or gardens – always shown as an activity associated with the domestic realm of women, not of professional space. Traditionally, on London’s Savile Row, the most skilled jobs of master coat maker, trouser maker or cutter were given to men, however these positions are now open to women.

Caroline Walker first turned to the city she lives in as a subject in 2016 with her paintings depicting London nail bars, after noticing their proliferation in the area near her studio. Working on a commission for Kettle’s Yard in 2017, which involved collaborating with the charity Women for Refugee Women to make a series of paintings of women refugees and asylum seekers at their accommodation in London, deepened her interest and opened her eyes to the idea of invisibility, of those overlooked lives in the city around us and about who occupies what spaces and at what times. This led to work focusing on women working in service industry jobs, particularly retail, hospitality and cleaning, often professions dominated by a female labor force, but which are largely taken for granted or in the case of hotel housekeeping, designed to be unseen. This interest has broadened to include women working in a wide range of roles. Who, where and what is being depicted is reflective of much larger social, economic and political themes.

Opening: Friday August 30th, 5-8pm