Art, Identity & Place

How wild places, deep time and archaeology inform my contemporary art process

A Portrait of Thought at Mungo

I have ‘gone through the wringer’ to reach my goal with this painting on gessoed printmaking paper – from warm to cool colours, from an image of artist to poet and from right end up to upside down. Within the progression my aim solidified.

In portraits and self-portraits the artist usually tries to capture what is termed ‘motions of the mind’ where attention paid to the particular person’s expression takes shape and settles into the final visage as interior thoughts reflected through skin, bone and anatomy form by the artist’s mind and hand into a particular type of expression. This portrayal ‘becomes’ a depiction of a type of person, their character, status and position in society or not – perhaps as an ‘outlaw’ from a particular society’s strictures and norms.

Other examples are the icon type of portrait whether secular or ecclesiastic such as the image of, for example, chairman Mao or a deity or saint. In both types, the depiction of eyes raised imagery, the artist aims to direct the viewer by suggestion to the idea of thought existing on a higher plane.

Also there is a type of passport image, usually dead-pan expression a frontal or silhouette aspect where the eyes impartially look beyond the viewer suggesting that this identity is unknown or partially blocked to the viewer. Identity is found by matching dates and names with the image.

Then the selfie image is where the person’s identity is ‘portrayed’ by location, activity and accompanying significant others.

Whether the imagery created by an artist with traditional media or photograph, surrounding objects and elements of architecture are often seen as emblems and symbols that augment meaning contained within the portrait by alluding to ideas outside the image that exist in the real world.

I have always loved many artist of the Baroque for their amazing portraits that show artists’ abilities to capture ‘motions of the mind’ without the inclusion of 20th century expressionist (emotions) or surrealist (the unconscious) stylistic structures.

My aim has been to find a way to integrate and combine aspects of ‘motions of the mind’ techniques and conventions with some knowledge of an environment and place and manipulate parts of each influence into a visage.  Significant parts of the landscape indicate the geological forces of nature below the Earth’s surface. I use imagined elements that are part of this process and combine them with parts of the portrait or self-portrait to try and depict a moment within a thought process so my portraits ‘look’ through a passage of time. Plenty to explore here-how much can one capture on a 2-D surface?

 

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Author: elainedesterre

I have been producing oil paintings, mixed media, prints (etching), digital prints and drawings for many years travelling to the Australian outback and overseas for inspiration and further education. My formal education consists of a PhD in painting and a BA in printmaking and my artwork is represented in public and private collections. My purpose and ongoing challenge is to create a gender-balanced and environment-focused iconography within the Western canon of European oil painting. These themes find expression within imagery about time, memory and identity as well as in geomorphology of evolutionary and environmental significance.

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