‘Women’s Work’ is Caroline Walker’s most comprehensive exhibition to date. It examines the hidden labour of jobs performed by women, such as tailors and chambermaids, viewed from the sidelines in their otherwise invisible worlds.
Often-unseen this work allows us to go about our daily lives with greater ease and comfort. During the pandemic we have seen our working lives transformed, this has been particularly dramatic in the shift in women’s position in the workplace.
Women’s over-representation in lower paid sectors, such as retail, hospitality and personal services, has made them particularly vulnerable in the labour markets effected by the pandemic. Many women working in these industries have been unable to work from home, resulting in a disastrous decline in their economic status.
Walker’s portraits respond to real-life female experience and this representation of everyday life is rarely expressed in culture, and especially not in painting, yet for the artist it is an ‘endless subject.’ The act of ‘looking’ is paramount to her practice, peering from the outside into an enclosed world of action and purpose.
Many of the paintings have developed from the artist’s inquisitiveness, she states “…sitting on the bus, looking out the window and thinking ‘what’s going on in there?’ thinking these spaces look really interesting because they’re shops filled with women, staffed by women.”
This catalogue includes a foreword by Deborah Kermode (MAC CEO and Artistic Director), with academic essays written by Tracey Warren (Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham), and renowned feminist art historian Griselda Pollock (Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art at the University of Leeds).
Published on the occasion of the exhibition, ‘Caroline Walker: Women’s Work’ at Midlands Arts Centre (mac), Birmingham (25 May – 5 September 2021).