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(i) signed, titled, inscribed and dated ‘PREENING (RIGHT PANEL) Caroline Walker 2018’ (on the reverse)
(i) signed, titled, inscribed and dated ‘PREENING (LEFT PANEL) Caroline Walker 2018’ (on the reverse)
oil on linen, in two parts
each: 78 3/4 x 55 1/4in. (200 x 140.2cm.)
overall: 78 3/4 x 110 3/8in. (200 x 280.4cm.)
Painted in 2018
GRIMM Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2018.
J. de Vries, M. Price and M. Samel (eds.), Caroline Walker Picture Window, London 2018, p. 301 (illustrated in colour, pp. 40-41; installation view illustrated in colour, pp. 46-47 and 310).
New York, GRIMM Gallery, service, 2018.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Spanning nearly three metres in width, Preening (2018) is a monumental example of Caroline Walker’s atmospheric portrayals of women. Painted across two canvases, it depicts the gleaming interior of a beauty store, a lone figure captured off guard within. A symmetrical pink design on the double doors simultaneously frames and obscures the scene: the logo, and the woman’s uniform, identifies the shop as Sally Beauty. The work belongs to Walker’s Service series, in which she depicts women in a variety of professional settings: from shops, offices and ateliers to restaurants, hotels and salons. In Preening, a quiet everyday scene becomes a scintillating play of colour, form and depth. Rows of shelves and products create a dazzling, near-abstract geometric framework, advancing and receding within our field of vision as they jostle against the curves of the pink lettering. Though the protagonist appears to be alone, posters and adverts conjure haunting flashes of human presence that challenge the viewer’s voyeuristic position; as we peer deeper into the scene, we sense that we too are being watched. It is a thrilling pictorial and psychological drama that eloquently captures the virtuosic ambition of Walker’s art.

Born and raised in Scotland, Walker attended Glasgow School of Art before completing her MA at the Royal College of Art, London, in 2009. She has risen to critical acclaim over the past decade, with solo exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, the Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham and KM21, The Hague, as well as the Fitzrovia Chapel, London, earlier this year, and at Nottingham Castle opposite Laura Knight this spring. Walker’s Service paintings—examples of which reside in the Arts Council Collection, London, the National Museum Wales and the Kunstmuseum Den Haag—are situated at the heart of a practice devoted to capturing the frequently-overlooked, and often invisible, roles played by women. Drawing on photographic source material, Walker paints a rich spectrum of social and cultural experience, imbuing each of her spaces with cinematic lighting and suspense. Here, the shop appears in the twilit zone between opening and closing; the girl’s arms are poised above her head as if tying up her hair. In this most ordinary of scenes, something strange and miraculous seems about to occur: the store becomes a temple of wonder, the assistant its high priestess.

Walker cites artists including Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet as inspiration: the latter’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) resonates particularly strongly with Preening, placing the viewer within a similarly multi-valent position. Echoes of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942), too, linger within the work’s undisclosed narrative. Formally, meanwhile, Walker’s practice invites comparison with artists such as Hurvin Anderson and Andreas Gursky, both of whom use geometry, colour and spatial play to capture the social dynamics at work in their quotidian scenes. Walker begins by making drawings and oil sketches that feed into her larger canvases. The vast scale of her works has much to do with their impact, immersing the viewer in the scene: ‘I want you to feel like you’re involved or implicated in what’s going on’, Walker explains (C. Walker in conversation with E. Spicer, Studio International, 10 April 2017). In Preening, this collision of public and private spaces creates a palpable friction: as we contemplate the figure before us, we realise we might—much like the shop logo itself—be looking at our own reflection.

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