For many years, the Canadian photographer Robert Walker focused his lens on the flora of the Botanical Gardens of Montreal. Trained first as a painter, and later as a photographer, his first major project had nothing to do with flowers; it was life on the streets of New York City, where he lived for a decade. There he developed a passion for colour and form, creating an extensive body of vivid urban imagery which impressed no less a writer than William Burroughs, who contributed a laudatory text to Walker’s first book.
Walker returned to his native Montreal in 1980, and searching for a new terrain to explore, chanced upon the city’s botanical garden, which happened to be close to where he had chosen to live. His Manhattan experience served him well, but its straight lines, flat surfaces and hard edges were poles apart from the sinuous curves, delicate textures and colours of mother nature; these differences he took as a challenge, working consistently year in and year out to capture the essence of the site.
The resulting body of work is clearly indebted to his street photography, but it is also deeply rooted in his love of abstract art, notably Abstract Expressionism and, in particular, Color Field painting; Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, Jules Olitski, and their contemporaries clearly impressed Walker.
This exhibition features a representative selection of imagery from those fruitful years.
Walker has exhibited widely and internationally for many decades. His street photography can be seen in the FEP exhibition Civilization: The Way We Live Now, currently on world tour.
A retrospective of his street photography, Color is Power (Thames & Hudson/Steidl), was jointly hosted by the Musée de l’Elysée in lausanne, and the Jan Cunen Museum, in 2004.
He is currently working on a book of his floral work, to be published in 2024.