Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Self-Portrait as Allegory of Painting

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

A re-hash of an image that began as an intaglio print and was put aside for a while before I tackled it again. Technically I wanted to combine oil paint with intaglio print. The image is part of a series about the theme of self-portrait as allegory of painting that seems to have originated in the seventeenth century. In this composition I tried to show how the artist’s mind may discern how light and dark reveal and obscure imagery.

Remaining paintings in this series:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Adventure and Allegory of Painting at Mungo

This small oil on gessoed printmaking paper began as an incomplete intaglio print as underpainting two years ago. During that time when I left it to dry I became dissatisfied with it and put it away for a while.

My mood and colour scheme had changed from lilac to blue. In the first pink/lilac stage I wanted to recapture the vanishing light at Mungo and its subtle flash of a citrine cold yellow before sunset. The blue rendition was a confused attempt to pick up the theme of how environmental conditions affect shape and image construction that morphed into a ‘listening to the land’ theme influenced by a series of collages titled ‘Sounds of Drought’

A recent science programme demonstrated new techniques and equipment that when placed in strategic places in a habitat could monitor particular sounds, types and  numbers of different creatures at a given time. The data created a picture on computer screen of the health of that particular area. A validition of my images with ears reaching into landforms esp. Mungo perhaps?.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


1 Comment

Selfies about Allegory and Apotheosis

Background

Allegory played a central part in traditional oil painting as it allowed artists to create imagery that was about reflecting their new upwardly mobile status from artisan to professional, after the ending of Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. For example in his Self- Portrait 1500, Durer made an allusion to an almost divine status and solemnly modelled himself on the Vera Icon or true image.

 

DURER 1IMG_2479

 

 

On the other hand Artemisia Gentileschi partly referred to Ripa’s iconography of the personification of the Allegory of painting ( based on the Ancient Greek goddess Athena ) and modelled herself on a revision of this particular representation. Her version showed a figure at work minus the gag that was an accompanying emblem of the allegory of painting figure. It alluded to painting as the silent art in comparison to poetry. The depiction of the head and highlighted brow and eyes referred to the state of vision and the idea of the rational, whereas the hands often referred to the senses and the irrational, as though the mind and body were split in two. Artemisia Gentileschi in this painting titled Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1630 appears to show how both mind and body interact.

ARTEMISIAIMG_2482

ALLEGORY 1IMG_2266

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 Explanation

I have been influenced by her revisionist approach to establishment Baroque iconography because although it occurred centuries ago it still cast a long shadow into the 20th and 21st centuries in the ways that women are still  represented and portrayed. I think I will call this series of small oil and mixed media works on paper  The Selfie as an Allegory of Vision : Homage to Artemisia Gentileschi.

I tried to depict aspects of different thought processes about identity, painting and place. For example the “Light is in the Blood” part of four titles refer to the complexity and interactions between sight, memory and action. For me its as though a mental image at the front of my mind flows somehow into my body in different stages that each require a double back into mental reflection, after and from which the flow of blood transports a random and often messy mental image into my hand and fingers.

When I refer to places like “Karijini” and “Lake Mungo”apart from documentation, my depictions are about how I feel on a visceral level, as both part of the landscape and at the same time being mentally dwarfed by the appreciation of my place in time, walking on a living ancient planet. It is as though the landscape watches.

The objects  “mirror” and “window” refer to different ways of looking. We only see a mirror image of ourselves and not as others see us. Which memory of that image or selected aspect of it ends up on the canvas and during the memory transition what else enters this mental space;  how much information from other sources can can I let in?  The use of perspective in painting is sometimes referred to as if we are looking through a window but we are also apart of what it is that we look at.

In the two paintings about the mobile phone I used its shape to resemble an ancient Minoan/Ariadnian column so that I combined references to ancient and modern imagery,  reaching back and then reaching forward simultaneously as a way to avoid constructing stereotypical female imagery.

The topic of self-portraiture is centuries old and representations often in a traditional style. I like to combine bits of ‘realism or naturalism’ with abstracted elements and gestural paint application as I have absorbed aspects of some 20th century “isms” and combine linear drawn mark making with areas of impasto, thin and thick paint layering and visual elements taken from several periods of art history. So much to choose from.

 

References

Garrard, Mary. 1989. Artemisia Gentileschi: the Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art. Princeton : New Jersey

Moxey, Keith. 1994. “Hieronymus Bosch and the “World Upside Down”. In Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey, eds., Visual Culture : Images and Interpretation, 104 – 140. New England : Hanover and London

Carol P. Christ is my source for the term “Ariadnian”.


Art and Symbolic Death

Some of the earliest images in which human features were represented whether sculptures or paintings are associated with funerary ritual. In this sense an imagined preservation of self and identity was contained within a portrait or a death mask. For example this sculpture is a 3 million year old pebble, Makapansgat cave, northern Transvaal, South Africa. 6cm across where one person may have fallen into this category.

 


MASK 2IMG_2290

 

 

Later many oil painted portraits show the sitter contemplating their mortality (momento mori) for example when the  hand was placed touching a skull or in a less obvious painting by Hans Holbein titled The Ambassadors depicting the skull at the bottom of the composition.

As early as the Neolithic people remembered their relatives by taking death masks or making a sculpture using the skull as an armature and then moulding over it with clay-like substances shaping it into a portrait and then painting it delineating the eyes in particular.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ear Alive, 2014

Ear Alive, 2014

 

In this oil painting on gessoed paper I borrowed from the Neolithic idea but I reframe the context so that instead of actual death it is the symbolic death of the artist in the process of creation that is my context with the idea of passing through a ‘portal’ into a different sense of reality. In the images of the rising/setting sun and the ear I refer to how in actuality it is the sense of hearing that lasts longest as other faculties die. Transferred to the context of the painting process the stories in my mind about what I portrayed in an immediate situation slowly fade and gradually ‘die’. These stories in my mind about the visualisation and technique used to make up the image are the last things that I ‘hear’ before I move on. They must ‘die’. In a sense I am ‘blind’ or in ‘darkness’ as the ‘sounds of insight’ about the image go leaving me with a sense of loss.

Rudgley, Robert. 1998. Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age. London : Century


A Patricia Sykes Poem “On your suicide coast”, 2013 : Allegory and Art

On my Home Page I have removed the previous images ( etchings; intaglio, chine-colle and collage) about the forces of nature from the series titled:

Return to Sand and Water

and added more images from that series which are about the artist and a process of insight. The artist like a diver plunges into the ocean of the mind and brings up ‘pieces of insight’ not the spark of an idea but the process of creativity that brings that idea to fruition. Also included is a poem titled On your suicide coast, by Patricia Sykes, 2013

Behind the process of insight theme depicted in these etchings was a tragic story.

Usually at Point Roadknight my impetus derives from the forces of nature or the sheer beauty of sunrise and back-lit cloud formations however this time was different. It was an unexpected tragic situation that I thought I’d forgotten about but which just popped up unexpectedly. On the ocean side of Point Roadknight rocky ledges reach like outstretched hands into the ocean and it was at this location that a friend called me on her mobile to hurry and meet her. What started as an early morning walk for her ended in both of us identifying a washed up body lying face down on the sand.

The very sad thing for me was that he could not be stopped from this ‘final dive’ by the beauty of this place.

We both  found an outlet in poetry and art for the topic of suicide but not as a collaboration. I had not set out to do a series of etchings informed by the poem.

Earlier I had some old prints that I tore up and collaged into new compositions. The torn image was one of the Hanged Man and was about an art student’s Performance as this persona; painted in white chalk, hanging from rafters with musician also performing on the side of the hanging figure. I turned the image around so that it could be read as a diving figure, omitted the musicians and integrated the male figure into the land/seascape and then it unexpectedly reminded me of the suicide.

The figure reaching into the watery underworld has been used in art and literature frequently as an allegory about art and poetry for example the image of Narcissus by Caravaggio, 1600 becomes an allegory of painting.

NARCIS

We had been working separately at different times with this material and I had put mine away for several years until recently when I noticed that they seemed in sympathy with each other – simpatico.

This poem by Patricia Sykes is titled:

On your suicide coast

a holiday of bodies in languid sprawl

as if death is never a stalker

a strange aliveness

       their lassitude

      disturbed by no breath of yours

       though they loll among the gone of it

some scan the horizon, the sky,

less from anxiety than the habit

of eyes as wings, the shadows

      fleeting their faces are mostly sea birds

      a streak of sooty crests

      through bright indifferent sunlight

did you admire the tenacity of terns,

how they hug the shore like guards?

my eyes your surrogates fly

      to 96° west, the SOS marker

      that hovered above your suicide like a metal angel

      it hovers still, its yellow vigilance

defies rust, its loyalty to the drowned

and the bereft told in griefs of flowers

though you were a stranger here

      though the last spume to touch you

      slid off the marker’s face

      like incidental sea spray

the wheeling terns are not crying

an absolute goodbye

death is constant burial

      I give you back to water

      the way a parent trusts an infant to a cradle

      this time the surge and thrash

is gentler; strange fish nibble my fingers,

as if you left a hunger here, the ocean

though speaks of nothing but cold

 

Patricia Sykes, 2013

 

Poetics in Imagery

One way I depict the content of a story in my imagery is through a time honoured method that can be termed poetics, metaphor or allegory; that is using one story to tell another in the case of allegory.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 


Desert “Selfie” at Lake Mungo

In this “selfie” I tried to remember an experience at Lake Mungo and then depict the interaction and sensation between the body, head, landscape and a particular quality of light as the sun was setting. Generally I try to portray how forces of nature and different individuals act at different times.

We were standing on the dunes waiting for the most interesting shot, with cameras poised, as everyone hoped to capture the moment of maximum light and colour as it fell on to the dunes in a way that would produce amazing colours. I waited too long in anticipation. At the most opportune moment there was a flash of a cool citron light and then the sun seemed to set more quickly. Very frustrating. I felt that expressing this experience in paint may elude me because it was so fleeting.

Originally I started with other experiences. My first attempt was to portray the desert night sky so I need to obscure the double image, (originally intended for a re-vision of the image of Narcissus who was portrayed by Caravaggio as an allegory of the self-portrait) in underpaintings 2 and 3. Then I changed to the heat and small intense black shadow at midday experience in underpainting 5. I abandoned that idea as it felt wrong and tried the sandstorm experience in underpainting 9. Another change of mind.

I had been avoiding the flash of yellow/citron light experience as I thought it may become very ‘chocolate box’. Why not give it a go so that in Underpainting 11 I finally started to get in touch with the suppressed feeling but not too quickly. Nothing like a gold icon background to make an art history reference yet another side track.  By underpainting 12 I finally got it and added the sun hoping it wouldn’t look too saccharine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Citron Light at Lake Mungo, 2014

The Citron Light at Lake Mungo, 2014

Purple, pink, red and yellow I’m a bit uncertain but feel as though I achieved  the desired effect even if it is a bit pretty. Perhaps I’m onto a much more colourful stage with this small study?