Elaine d'Esterre

Contemporary Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


“Selfies” in oil paint

The genre of self portraiture, once limited to artists (or photographers when they shot a mirror-image), has been democratised with the invention of the cell phone and almost become the mainstream genre at present.

This  artistic genre could be described as one where viewer and artist share the same gaze. The viewer sharing the gaze can look into the artist’s soul and mind on one hand, or in some other examples of traditional art share the way that an artist of the Baroque for instance gave a self portrait to a prospective client to be ‘read’ like a CV where skill was displayed in the painting  of flesh and different fabrics as well as metal and other surfaces.

 

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Self-Portrait in Action. 2014IMG_2259Oil paint was the ideal  medium in which to render beautiful surfaces but now in the 21st century what does it offer the viewer and artist in this genre with its characteristic flat surface in comparison to performances or conceptual art projects about identity? Do the reasons for it existence still seem relevant?

What keeps me interested is that I can allude to past symbolism as well as explore psychological experiences, vulnerabilities and memories.  The qualities of transparency, semi-opacity and opacity within the medium help me to depict these transitions. By breaking up the form of the head with different objects that allude to the processes of sight and painting action I can denote moments when the artist in a sense “plunges into darkness” ( Derrida) that mentally exists  between observation of the image and paint application. In this small study I began with a drawn line and then moved into paint areas, transparent glazes and then back to the element of line. In one way the act of painting becomes a “selfie” and not my appearance.

 

From Rust to Rock 2014, 39x19 cm print, 50x35 cm paper, intaglio, frottage and collage


Abstract Landscape Etching (intaglio, chine-colle, collage) ‘Triptych’

 

The triptych has a history dating from the late Middle Ages to early Renaissance and was designed to tell a story. It consisted of a central panel with two smaller side panels placed behind the high altar. In an era before the invention of perspective this format was a device that illustrated the drama of the main protagonist, quite often a crucifixion scene, with supporting roles on the side panels .

Famous people and members of the aristocracy also found this form useful for secular story-telling, for example there is a triptych featuring a centrally placed Martin Luther accompanied by side panels that illustrated  his deeds; a type of curriculum vitae writ large. This type of portraiture was commissioned not only by aristocrats but members of the ‘middle class’.

By reading this abstracted landscape (which belongs to the series part of which is shown on my website Home Page titled And then the Ocean Rusted 2013-2014,) in a triptych format a viewer could detect an allusion to a type of geological narrative. In a way the central panel summed up the action on the ‘side panels’. It was all about rusty sediment.

The purchaser of these three prints decided to hang them together in ‘triptych’ format. I liked this arrangement. In comparison with the traditional triptych format the print on central panel is smaller than the prints on side panels. However the central panel/print although smaller attracts the eye first due to the intensity of colour and contrast in the composition, but also the larger surround of printmaking paper creates another contrast. The textures of chine-colle on rice paper and the frottage while enlarging both the panel/print images has a softening effect and gives the central image room to ‘breathe’.


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Artwork titled “And then the Ocean Rusted”, 2013-2014

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The frottage prints from the Pilbara banded iron formation rocks done at The Gorges in Karijini National Park were applied to etchings and collage etchings. In these prints I combined  imagined geological processes with the immediate present day frottage recording process in the one composition. The frottage prints were literally like a touchstone when starting work in my studio in that they helped ‘bring back’ the gorges.

What drew to this topic was my sense of awe when touching such ancient rock and how it heralded the formation of life on this planet. In the Pilbara the landscape surface gives the traveller little clue as to the gorges’ appearance  and the intensity of their colour.

On my Home Page are larger versions of the slide show and further detail of each image can be seen at my shop at www.artfido.com/painted_by_elaine