John Walker was born in Birmingham, England in 1939.
He has been recognized for several years as one of the most interesting and accomplished painters of his generation, and as a paradigm of artistic integrity. He is also known as an unpredictable and idiosyncratic artist who does where his instincts take him and does not hesitate to push paining to a point that exceeds what some might believe to be its limits. Walker first gained recognition in the early 1970s with large, relatively flat, planar abstractions. Then, less than a decade later, he created a stir when he introduced intensely modeled, near-representational forms into his essentially abstract pictures. His paintings with pinch-waisted "Alba" shapes in particular had a Cézannesque austerity and feeling for structure, and might have provided a lesser artist with a lifetime of variations. But a few years later, Walker opened up his picture space to all sorts of irregular forms and patterns, along with skulls and images based on Oceanic masks and sculptures. Along the way, a number of his innovations, especially the way he had extended the language of abstract painting to allow for figuration, were widely imitated and in some quarters became systematized into a new kind of academicism. But Walker has remained very much his own person. He has continued to explore subject matter that few painters would dare approach, and he has continued to move up and back across the risky line between abstraction and representation in original and unexpected ways.
As a result, his career has not had the comfortable predictability of many of his contemporaries. Each time that he became associated with a certain kind of imagery, he pushed himself further and went on to something else. His work has, in the fullest sense, matured and deepened with the passage of time and currently has a weight, grandeur, and painterly complexity that are virtually unique in contemporary painting. —Jack Flam, "Time and Tides: Recent Paintings by John Walker," in John Walker: Time and Tides (Knoedler & Company, New York, 2001)