Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


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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


Artwork with Etching continues

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This image evolved from my thoughts about how I felt in 45 degrees celsius heat when I saw, touched and took frottages from 2.5 billion year old bedrock in gorges in Karijini National Park in the Pilbara, W.A.

 

Untitled, 2014, 30x25 cm, mixed media

Untitled, 2014, mixed media 30×25 cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This image shows a continuation of a past theme that I titled Eye and Site 1, 2 and 3. The main idea is about a process about different aspects of the artist’s vision. For example part of doing a self-portrait is when the artist turns away from the mirror-image. Derrida explained the sensation as one where the artist is plunged into darkness before addressing the blank space on the canvas. The moment is between the look and the mark making when memory, insight and emotion from an underworld or unconscious mind briefly rise up into consciousness as brush touches the canvas – looking above and below simultaneously. The process I try to capture here feels like a double act.


Artwork underpainting continues

This small mixed media is “finished ” and when it dries very minor tonal gradation may be require in the background.

The underpaintings following need radical alteration notably ‘underpainting 8’ which is about halfway to getting there. The next image also needs more focus and the last one still requires more structure in the composition.

I was sure the “finished” image was going to give me problems but it was the last image thought to be a breeze earlier that now looks tricky.


Artwork underpaintings struggle stage

This is always the push and pull stage: erase, reintroduce line, change the meaning, get a bit precious, attack with turpentine rag and wipe off image. Although these are small studies measuring about 50×35 cm they often challenge me more than larger works.

The journey from inspiration to creation is always tricky. For instance I’m inspired by the idea that the viewer is not a distant observing  subject capturing an object in paint or any other medium. I try not to produce an aesthetic of possession or of total control. In a way I feel observed by the terrain/land/environment/geology/geomorphology through which I pass and that my creative process mirrors that of the earths’.

Ideas like tectonic plates  slide under and over each other, melt, coalesce into different thought patterns. Images and ideas can well up unexpectedly and fracture safe, formulaic and comfortable assumptions and techniques. For me it is like a mirroring of creativity and the processes can be convoluted, unexpected, annoying and frustrating as “failures” often hold the seeds of new ideas and point the way to new directions and paths for further exploration.

For example the last 2 images have been a source of frustration as I was trying to combine two different pictorial formats, that is, how cupules in rocks produced 50,000 years ago and used as depression into which eyes were painted could relate to our pictorial conventions. Neither the idea, composition or technique has been resolved and it requires attention but I feel it is part of something further down the track.

The source of this rock art eye imagery was included in a lecture by the Kimberley Foundation.


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Artwork and underpainting progress

The under paintings gradually take shape in unexpected directions.

Some minor alterations were required to lighten tones and enhance contrasts. Feeling ambivalent about the sombre colours. I want more vibrant intense colour. And on reflection I prefer some of the underpainting to the ‘finished’ image. Back to the drawing board. I wanted to express some of the reflections of being immersed in the gorges in the Pilbara. Untitled 3 looks more like the sands of Lake Mungo and the feeling often experienced in the desert where wind and sand appear to erase evidence of existence. (In fact fossilised footprints 40,000 years + old were found imprinted into what was originally a bed of clay).


Artwork and Under Painting

My process of image making is often accidental or an organised accident. Images often emerge from failed etchings or gouache where I hit a brick wall, put them in the too hard basket and walk away. When I return to them I see them differently. The examples here are failed etchings left for 18 months.

 

The solution was to create a mixed media image, keep part of the original image from the print zinc plate, change the subject matter and meaning from the mother Demeter self-portrait from Natalie with the Gaze and the Glance to that of artist engaged in the process of painting, challenging some of the conventions as an allegory for vision and insight.

The last three images are almost complete whereas the first ones are quite raw and  unfocused. Although untitled they refer back to earlier paintings in series titled Eye and Site 1,2 and 3. In the mode of Hildegard of Bingen who saw the mirror not as a source of vanity but of spiritual self-examination, I find the examination of the conventions of oil painting an endless source of symbolism that is about an inquiry in to how images of women are constructed and evaluated.

Segmented Glance 2, 1/1, 2010, intaglio, drypoint, chine-colle and collage


Demeter and Persephone Re-visioned in Double Portrait form

Artists, myself included often refer to myth, history, archaeology or religion when depicting imagery as a way to include several layers of meaning with everyday subject matter. Messages can be conveyed through obvious symbols or by disguised symbolism for example the Demeter and Persephone myth can provide an allegory for narratives and images depicting mothers and daughters.

The well-known story about a mother (Demeter) and daughter (Persephone) relationship described as a tragic and cruel rape, abduction and kidnapping of a child from her mother is often referred to as an allegory for spring in the patriarchal culture of Ancient Greece.

 I referred to aspects of the Demeter and Persephone myth but re-visioned it by tracing some of the symbols back to their original location in earlier rituals as a way to re-vision the disempowerment of women in this rape and kidnap cautionary tale. Often symbols remain but the story told about them changes. Their Minoan-like origin can be seen in an excavation by S. and N. Marinatos at Akrotiri in Thera. So I retained several aspects not in their narrative form but in a type of disguised symbolism.  In that way I could depict through a double portrait my understanding  and formation of a daughter’s identity by referring to this allegory about renewal and transition.

Briefly I referred to frescos that depicted a narrative ritual where women protagonists descend into an adyton (holy of holies) depicted within the architecture of the Thera excavation.  The frescos make reference to the underworld, vegetation, growth and the cycle of nature as does the rape of Persephone and abduction to the underworld by her uncle Hades. 

The sketches and Theran frescos below illustrate part of the ritual activity at Akrotiri (destroyed in 1500 B.C.) in Thera (Santorini).

The shaved head of a young girl painted on this fresco suggests that she may be engaging in an initiation ritual.

Tentative reconstruction of the entire room 3 showing the pictorial programme on both floor levels.

Tentative reconstruction of the entire room 3 showing the pictorial programme on both floor levels including the steps descending into the adyton.

The sketch depicts a girl with a bleeding foot and a crocus. All heads turned to the blood on the altar.

I extrapolated imagery from elements of this symbolism as a way to create abstracted backgrounds that refer to blood and the dark atmosphere of an underworld ritual where in my imagination often unconscious and inarticulate emotions rise between a mother and daughter. This is a privatised world not a public and sacred ritual however I avoid direct reference to the rape and violence of Greek myth.

I also used this narrative of underground ritual as an allegory about vision, insight and inspiration.

Reference

Marinatos, Nanno,  Art and Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society. Athens, D. & I. Mathioulakis, 1984