The Ingleby’s new exhibition of Caroline Walker is a great option for art-lovers who need to get away from their kitchen-table-desk setup, but who also need to find inspiration to continue the toil of working in a pandemic. Walker’s collection depicts women at work – and although the themes of the paintings address significant socio-cultural and particularly feminist issues, they are comforting rather than difficult to view.
What is most evident from this collection is the way Walker represents light, and the ways in which the Ingleby complements this with the lighting of the gallery space. Each painting emits a warmth which seems to emulate the comforting figure of her mother; but this use of light does not diminish the work of the woman, rather expresses the inspirational qualities of quiet labour. There is a deep sense of the familial, and though the figure is a stranger to the gallery-goer, one feels incredibly welcomed by the paintings. Part of this sense of welcoming comes from the scale of the paintings, which fit the space of the Ingleby’s tall walls and ornate ceilings perfectly. Standing in front of each, at just the right distance, fills the vision with the image of the home.
But this comfort and welcoming do not appear to be naïve, as this collection also attends to feminist concerns over hidden labour. Whilst the paintings do not devalue domestic work, and instead elevate it, they also invite the observer to question the ways in which we view women’s’ labour. The solitude of the mother figure in the paintings is an inspiring force in such a lonely time, and radiates a quiet motivational quality.
The gallery itself is also a comforting place to visit in such times as these: upstairs in the ‘Feast Room’ there are sofas and a warm fireplace with accompanying art books, including a detailed one on Walker. This space and exhibition represents a calming environment to contemplate how you think about your own work, and that of others.
Image: Laura Baliman