John Walker’s (English, b. 1939) oeuvre, spanning across over sixty years, has included a variety of abstract approaches bound together by a careful balance between raw and spontaneous movement, and mindfully structured space. Originally from Birmingham, England, Walker attended the Mosely School of Art and later the Birmingham School of Art and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Walker has been inspired at different times by the art of Oceania, European masters Goya, Manet, and Matisse, and the work of American Abstract Expressionists. Throughout his career he has utilized different shape and pattern motifs: in the 1980s, a time when his work was heavily influenced by the art of Oceania, his “Alba” shape (a loose reference to Goya) was a focus of most paintings; in the ‘90s, polka-dots and egg-like orbs prevailed; and his 21st century work has included a variety of repeating amorphous shapes and zig-zag lines.
Much of Walker’s work of the last 20 years is based on the coast of Maine, where the artist lives. These abstract landscapes oscillate between spontaneity, and a decidedly conscientious approach to shaping the architecture of the canvas. In a palette which ranges from crisp whites and primary and secondary colors to muddied, rusty browns, greys, and black, alongside gritty surfaces and carefully manipulated linear movement, Walker evokes the character of the New England coastal landscape.
The artist’s many teaching appointments throughout his lengthy career have included Cooper Union, Yale University, the Victoria College of the Arts in Melbourne, and the Royal College in London. He retired in 2015 from his position as the head of the graduate department in painting at Boston University.