Barbara Walker (b. 1964) is a British artist based in Birmingham in the UK. Her work is informed by the social, political and cultural realities that affect her life and the lives of those around her. Growing up in the Black community in Birmingham during the 1960s and 70s, her experiences have directly shaped a practice concerned with issues of class and power, gender, race, representation and belonging. Her figurative drawings and paintings tell contemporary stories hinged on historical circumstances, making them universally understood and reflecting a human perspective on the state of affairs in her native Britain and elsewhere.
Referred to by the art historian Eddie Chambers as “one of the most talented, productive and committed artists of her generation”, Walker makes portraits in a range of media and formats, from small embossed works on paper, to paintings on canvas and large-scale charcoal wall drawings. Her works depict subjects who are often cast as minorities, inviting the viewer to look beyond the anonymising act of categorising or classifying citizens. Her pictures make visible the lives of others, and address the allusions associated with the labels conferred upon people by society.
The issues of visibility and representation are central to Walker’s practice. She often references public archives to create works that effectively transfer visibility back to the subject, offering an alternative and balanced interpretation of a nation’s history. The narrative of national heritage, presented through public collections, is informed by acquisitions and the collecting rationale of privileged individuals throughout history; Walker works to disrupt these limited and often skewed standpoints, and through her pictures introduces opportunities for the contemporary viewer to consider other perspectives beyond that of the powerful institution.
Walker’s recent solo exhibitions include Here and Now at Lakeside Arts Centre (2013), As Seen at Tiwani Contemporary, London,( 2013), Sub Urban at the James Hockey Gallery, part of the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham (2015), and Shock and Awe at Midlands Arts Centre (2016). Forthcoming solo exhibitions are scheduled at The Jerwood Gallery in Hastings (2018) and Turner Contemporary in Margate (2019). Her works have been included in significant group exhibitions in the UK and internationally; exhibitions including Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora at the Royal West of England Academy (2016), Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), A Slice Through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at Modern Art Oxford (2018) and The Gallery of Small Things at the Dakar Biennale, Senegal (2018). Walker received the inaugural Evelyn Williams Drawing Award in 2017, in association with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Her work is held in private and public collections including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Herbert Art Gallery, Arts Council Collection and Yale Center for British Art.