Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Sunrise Photographs

My expectation and anticipation yesterday as I quickly drove to the beach was to capture the image of the rising sun seen  through a colourful and gradual burnt off low cloud and sea mist. I was sure that if I hurried along the edge of Point Roadknight toward the point I would arrive at the rock edge as the sun rose. Not this time.

As the minutes passed not a glimmer of light or faint glow could be conjured from an opaque wall of cloud.

View from the beach

View from the beach

Cloud at Point Roadknight

Cloud at Point Roadknight

Cloud at Point Roadknight

Cloud at Point Roadknight

Return to the beach

Return to the beach

I thought it a wasted effort and with rising tide I returned to the beach, however the rock profile in the foreground echoed the misty distance. When I momentarily glanced back I noticed how at the same time cloudy mist obscured and revealed  different aspects of the rock formation.

Rising tide

Rising tide

Rising tide and thicker cloud

Rising tide and thicker cloud

White line of foam flows over reflection

White line of foam flows over reflection

Illusion of merged tide line and foggy cloud veil-like appearance

Illusion of merged tide line and foggy cloud veil-like appearance

About to leave when the sun made a feeble attempt to disperse the cloud. Approximately half an hour had passed witnessed by the sun’s position above the horizon line.

Sun and cloud

Sun and cloud

Sun, cloud and wave

Sun, cloud and wave

Before I left the beach two hooded plovers scurried across damp sand and came into view. Moody tonal type of imagery is quite hard to chance upon and was a rewarding experience when I had expected bright pink/ orange almost chocolate box-like misty atmosphere.

Hooded plovers

Hooded plovers

Many artworks including etchings were inspired by forces of nature at Point Roadknight. Some of them are for sale and can be viewed at etsy.com/shop/elainedesterre


Photography about Dawn Clouds

I like to capture unusual almost unnatural graphic romantic effects that can occur at times like sunrise and sunset. Low red light changing quickly to orange as the sunrises can appear to visually distort parts of the landscape making it temporarily alien.  This morning as I walked onto the beach before sunrise I witnessed an unusual cloud formation. I remembered the last time I observed a similar shape as it inspired an artwork titled Dawn Cloud Trajectory, 2010 from a series of artwork titled Return to Sand and Water

Dawn Cloud photographed by Elaine on the 27th June 2013 at Point Roadknight

Dawn Cloud photographed by Elaine on the 27th June 2013 at Point Roadknight

Dawn Cloud Trajectory, 2010, 15x30 cm print, 35x50 cm paper, intaglio and collage

Dawn Cloud Trajectory, 2010, 15×30 cm print, 35×50 cm paper, intaglio and collage


Oil Painting Commission

EARLY STAGES

This commission is centered on a land-form called Point Roadknight situated on the Surf Coast along the Great Ocean Road. Part of my process includes taking photographs and frottage. The photographs show the context, the environment in which the specific rocks that structure this feature of the landscape. The particular rocks are columnar in shape and resemble revealed ancient ruins  as softer material around then eroded. The columnar shaped rocks are hard but also brittle mineralised calcification caused by rain leaching through top layers of the land-form. The painting is about erosion of the rock face and its reflection in pools and on wet sand. I would like the final image to show a partly dissolved structure surrounded by a watery environment. I approach this topic with nostalgia because the rate of erosion seems quite fast as each winter less of the Point remains especially these ” columns”  and their configuration. But first the  visual and tactile exploration.

Point Roadknight reflections photograph taken early morning.

Point Roadknight reflections photograph taken early morning.

Point Roadknight columns erosion.

Point Roadknight columns erosion.

Sand and Reflection photograph with sunrise reflecting on rocks in turn reflected in wet sand.

Sand and Reflection photograph with sunrise reflecting on rocks in turn reflected in wet sand.

These are only three of the many studies that  help me appreciate the action of water and the resulting erosion. I then take frottage from rocks in this area.

Frottage 1 on rice paper taken from rock surface reminiscent of an entablature.

Frottage 1 on rice paper taken from rock surface reminiscent of an entablature.

Frottage taken from transverse section of a broken column at Point Roadknight.

Frottage taken from transverse section of a broken column at Point Roadknight.

Frottage taken from the internal wall of a broken column at Point Roadknight.

Frottage taken from the internal wall of a broken column at Point Roadknight.

I moulded  rice paper to particular rock  textures over which I rubbed graphite to produce a type of print or rubbing called a frottage.

The next stage involved placing the rice paper frottage onto the canvas with gesso where I combined them with a rough ink drawing. Then I poured ink and gesso onto the surface as a way to suggest part of the rock structure. A blue over painting wash consisted of oil painted diluted with gum turpentine.

Underpainting 1consisted of the frottages, ink and gesso.

Underpainting consisted of the frottage, ink and gesso.

Underpainting detail

Underpainting detail

The second ink and gesso layer over painted with the  third layer of gum turpentine oil paint wash.

The second ink and gesso layer over painted with the third layer of gum turpentine oil paint wash.


Women’s History, Invisible Women

Recently I read a book titled Invisible Women Of Prehistory: three million years of peace, six thousand years of war by Judy Foster with Marlene Derlet . Both the text and drawn illustration were made clear by accompanying charts, classifications and time lines. The author/artist Judy Foster drew clear, concise and instructive drawings.

Invisible Women of Prehistory: three million years of peace, six thousand years of War by Judy Foster with Marlene Derlet. Spinifex Press.

Invisible Women of Prehistory: three million years of peace, six thousand years of war by Judy Foster with Marlene Derlet. Spinifex Press. (front).

Invisible Women of Prehistory, three million years of peace, six thousand years of war by Judy Foster with Marlene Derlet. Spinifex Press, (back).

Invisible Women of Prehistory: three million years of peace, six thousand years of war by Judy Foster with Marlene Derlet. Spinifex Press, (back).

The authors give the reader an encyclopaedic overview of the many archaeological finds in the form of sculptures and imagery found on artifacts, figurines, ceramics, tools and on walls of  prehistoric sites where female imagery is predominant. Throughout this world-wide survey the authors argue that society and civilisation were more gender balanced and that women invented agriculture, pottery, writing, and textiles in prehistory, were not war-like and that this was a universal phenomenon. However this benign situation changed when Indo-European invaders ushered in a different type of ‘civilisation’.

Europe during this time span was not the only site of excavation where this imagery was found. So it can now not be seen as an anomaly. Scenes of physical and psychological violence were generally absent and women’s status appeared to be higher than that at present. They challenge the academic resistance to the work of archaeologist  Marija Gimbutas.  Also challenged are ideas that the system we now live in  has progressed from a past seen to be violent and brutal  to the peaceful present.

Many contemporary artists, from the 1960s onward, (influenced by aspects of these theories,  accompanying images of archaeological sites and imagery found in and around the sites and excavations), sought different ways to subvert and go beyond some art historical sexist depiction as well as some contemporary imagery.

On another level I thought significance also lay in challenging the perception of woman as minority which can lead to attitudes where Women’s rights are sometimes not understood as Human rights.  In this way perceptions of the past can have ramifications for the present. As an artist I try to understand and explore origins and meanings encoded in imagery whether they relate to figure or landscape and this book will be a very handy reference.


Last Night

The last night of the trip with Coates Wildlife Tours was memorable and to celebrate the ending and parting from interesting travel companions we built a camp fire. The last camp and meal were celebrated with wine, song and ditties in which we thanked our tour guide Wayne whose knowledge of birds alerted us to every movement among foliage, rock and spinifex, and Director, driver and cook Tom whose skills kept us energised, safe, together and on time.

Last Night campfire

We also had the opportunity to view birds through Wayne’s telescope and identified almost 140 species. Plants also were a major focus as well as fauna. Many different reptiles caught our attention, I remember especially the Golden Monitor lizard in Dales Gorge who wasn’t fazed by people and cameras.

With my photographs, frottages and rock samples I anticipate many hours in my studio  tackling artworks that capture aspects of the landscape.  The geology of particular rock formation influenced the surface topography over time.  I try to replicate aspects of these processes with paint textures and different mediums in which the paint is diluted or thickened.

Golden Monitor lizard


Walga Rock

Walga (Walganna) Rock, 1.8 km long and composed of post-tectonic granite, is one of the many whalebacks scattered throughout the Yilgarn Craton. Situated on the Western section of the craton which consists of rocks of every Archean era with zircons dating back to the Hadean also clastic sedimentary rock. It consists of K-feldspar porphyritic monogranite that forms the type area thought to be approx. 2.5 billion years old.

Walga Rock cave entrance before sunset.

Walga Rock cave entrance before sunset.

Above the gallery situated on the cave wall are large slabs of granite in the process of ‘peeling off’  the main rock form. This process is caused by expansion and contraction of the surface because of extreme seasonal and diurnal temperatures in this inland (300 km), arid climate. Rain water and wind erosion molded and eroded the lower recessed section of the rock.

Walga Rock wind and rain water erosion ' peeling off ' slabs of granite.

Walga Rock wind and rain water erosion ‘ peeling off ‘ slabs of granite.

Wind and water erosion

Wind and water erosion forming cave wall.

The rock overhang protected the array of paintings. The depiction of a masted boat was quoted by archaeologists  as evidence of contact with sailors of European origin, firstly Dutch and then later archaeological evidence suggested a similarity between this depiction and the nineteenth century coastal steamer SS Xantho. (Bigourdan, 2006)

I took a rubbing/frottage from rocks as well as rice paper stains from soil far from the enclosure. They are a way for me to connect with the place via a tactile experience when I return to my studio. Often I adhere them with gesso to the canvas surface.

Walga Rock frottage, 22/04/13, 7.30 am, graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Walga Rock frottage, 22/04/13, 7.30 am, graphite and pastel on rice paper.

Walga Rock paper stain 1, 24/04/13, 7.40 am, soil stain on rice paper.

Walga Rock paper stain 1, 24/04/13, 7.40 am, soil stain on rice paper.

This technique is one that includes quick sketches done on site. Below are previous examples of this mixing of different media which I meld into large oil paintings. They may be viewed on my website : desterreart.com.au and are part of a series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Escarpment, 2007, 98x84 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape. Courtesy of the D. Hutton collection.

Escarpment, 2007, 98×84 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas
from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.
Courtesy of the D. Hutton collection.

Water Etching, 2003, 140x120 cm, mixed media on board from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Water Etching, 2003, 140×120 cm, mixed media on board
from the series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

Igneous 2, 2004, 214x108 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas from series titled An Archaeology of Landscape

Igneous 2, 2004, 214×108 cm, oil and mixed media on canvas
from series titled An Archaeology of Landscape.

P.S.  Correction: Feldspar should read K-feldspar. The “K”, refers to the Potassium content of feldspar. There are 3 K feldspars: microcline, sanidine and orthoclase (orthoclase and plagioclase, another type of feldspar, are often easily seen in volcanic rocks, they’re usually a milky to pinkish white).