Barbara Walker is a British artist who lives and works in UK.
Her paintings and drawings of the human figure open up a dialogue with viewers concerning the notions about race identity, belonging, class, power and the politics of how we look at others. Working in a range of media and formats, from works on paper and canvas to large-scale wall installations, Walker is particularly concerned with social and political issues with particular reference to history and cultural differences in contemporary life. Her work often looks at the world around her, particularly what she sees reflected in the communities in which she lives and works.
Walker’s early series of paintings, from 2002, Private Face offered an intimate portrait of members of the African-Caribbean community in Birmingham, the city in which she grew up, raised her family and continues to live and work. These images document ordinary black lives with a warmth, humanity and painterly care that resists objectification and defies stereotype.
This quiet activism took an overtly political turn in Louder Than Words (2006), Walker’s response to her son Solomon being repeatedly stopped and searched by police. In this work, Walker overwrites the yellow police documents issued to the ‘suspect’, with a loving mother’s portrait of her son to create her own ‘witness statement’.
Her eloquent drawing skills deftly tread the fine line between capturing a likeness and trapping an individual. In Show and Tell (2008), a series of drawings of young men, Walker renders the textures of clothing, skin, hair and jewellery with skill and tenderness. Each portrait evokes a tangible physical presence, yet the faces of the young men remain unseen, their identity unknowable. Some of these large-scale drawings are made directly onto gallery walls and ultimately washed away in front of exhibition visitors, introducing a visceral, performative element to Walker’s exploration of notions of visibility and erasure.
Barbara Walker was awarded a 1st Class BA in Art and Design by the University of Central England, Birmingham, 1996. She has undertaken several residencies and has had a significant number of solo exhibitions of her drawings and paintings, in the UK. Her work has also been included in international exhibitions.Solo exhibitions include mac, Birmingham and The New Art Gallery, Walsall. Her work is held in private and public collections including Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery,Lincoln Art Gallery, Herbert Art Gallery& Museum, and Arts Council Collection. In 2017, she will be taking part in the Diaspora Pavilion, Palazzo Pisani S. Marina during the 57th Venice Biennale.