Art, Identity & Place

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


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From 1970 to 2017

 

Comparing Artwork from the last century with that of the 21st century.

The first column consists of my recent artwork which I placed adjacent to the second column. On my website home page are more images from the past, several of which were teaching demos. for students who wanted to explore the styles, techniques and artists of the Modern era. While I likes many aspects of Modernism I wanted to convey  sense of  specific persons and places captured at a particular moment in time which then led me to apply several combinations of style and technique.

On one hand this meant retaining some realism or naturalism in my later work compared to earlier depictions where the figuration was freer but on the other hand, paint was more free flowing and random in recent work but more controlled on earlier images. I like the different qualities of the wet on wet oil medium with random areas of flow, bleeding edges, transparencies and impasto so I gradually left behind some aspects of painting built up by using wet on dry techniques. The result is that I do combinations of both.

 

 

 

 


Posters, Portraits, Prayers and Comic Strips

Influences from the Poster Day Bill

I always cited the sources of my imagery or iconography  derived from art history books, museums or archaeology to have derived from so-called high art both old and new masters.   But re thinking was in order as some unconscious images came to the fore. Yesterday on eBay I scrolled through posters on display. They were arranged in chronological order ranging from recently dated reaching back to the 1950s. I found the change of style over time quite interesting as both ends of this spectrum showed how technology changed designs and their content.

Today it is possible to create tonally complex figurative imagery where a protagonist in a particular scene selected from the movie and situated in a complex perspective realist or hyper realist styled background constituted the poster format design. However many of these literal images selected as part of a narrative, often depicted using tenebrism, a darkened Caravaggio style  enhancing the feeling of action, were  often hard to read in an eye-grabbing  instant compared to the designs of the 1950s.  The shiny glossy surface was also a point of contrast placed next to the opaque day bills of the 50s.

Gina Lollobrigida starring in " Anna of Brooklyn ", 1958, Vintage Daybill movie poster.

Gina Lollobrigida starring in ” Anna of Brooklyn “, 1958, Vintage Daybill movie poster.

Recent movie poster

Recent movie poster

Even though the latest imagery is detailed (regardless of content which is another story), realistic, atmospheric, tonal ( the figures have weight and volume ) and are placed in a fairly realistic perspective space, the visual impact came from first posters for me. Disregarding the subject matter, the formalist values, the flattened figure with hard edges and bright colour caught my attention immediately.

The text showed  polished almost glowing 3-D lettering arching along the bottom line in contrast to the text in the early poster that is simple, flat probably done by hand or type set ( Letraset a few years away ? ) with no attempt at atmospheric perspective. However by placing secondary figures and other aspects of the narrative almost in miniature compared to the figure of the protagonist the sense of distance  fell into place.

One type of dramatic action was about an adventure and the other was about a romance rendered with flat contrasting colour.

I wondered why these old style posters apart from the nostalgia they evoked of a by-gone era  played on my mind. In that era without colour television my main sources of imagery from popular culture  were these posters, the movies, comics and comic strips in newspapers, Time and Life magazines and The Saturday Evening Post (Norman Rockwell). I became aware  a strong influence some of these posters had on the unconscious formatting of my imagery in a formalist sense.

For example the image from a mural titled Women  of the Interior while being about a protagonist who explored the Australian Outback had a composition imprint related to the first image though the colour related to the desert.

Elaine d'Esterre. Detail from a mural titled Women of the Interior, 1992, 12 feet by 30 feet. acrylic on plaster board

Elaine d’Esterre. Detail from a mural titled Women of the Interior, 1992, 12 feet by 30 feet. acrylic on plaster board

This image was also similar in that figures placed in the foreground had smaller images placed around the main figure positioned in a way to heighten the sense of drama. In the far distance, through the keyhole the artist engaged in the act  of painting  took second place to the foreground fantasy figures.

Elaine d'Esterre. The Original Sudarium, 1994 - 1995, diptych, 132x180 cm, oil on canvas, from my PhD exegesis titled Feminist Poetics: Symbolism in an Emblematic Journey about Self and Vision

Elaine d’Esterre. The Original Sudarium, 1994 – 1995, diptych, 132×180 cm, oil on canvas, from my PhD exegesis titled Feminist Poetics: Symbolism in an Emblematic Journey about Self and Vision

Influences from the classroom portrait

Another unexpected source of imagery derived from old master prints was The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals and  Vincent Van Gogh self portraits that appeared to  stare down from above a classroom mantle piece.

Face and Horn, 1994, 76x66 cm, oil on canvas, from Feminist Poetics

Face and Horn, 1994, 76×66 cm, oil on canvas, from Feminist Poetics

Influences from the school chapel

As well as the format of the 3/4 view classroom portrait the prints in the school chapel included The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci .  The  frontal portrayal of Christ was also a well used iconic image.

Elaine d'Esterre. Through the Window 2, 2000, 50x75 cm gouache, from the series titled Eye and Site 1

Elaine d’Esterre. Through the Window 2, 2000, 50×75 cm gouache, from the series titled Eye and Site 1

Placed beside the altar in which hung the da Vinci The Last Supper print was a framed print of The Annunciation by Fra Angelico.

The Annunciation in Florence, 1440 - 60, Fra Angelico. Florence, Museo di  S. Marco. Fresco. ( Source: Baxandall, Michael, 1972 )

The Annunciation in Florence, 1440 – 60, Fra Angelico. Florence, Museo di S. Marco. Fresco. ( Source: Baxandall, Michael, 1972 )

d'Esterre. Subjectivity 2, 2004, 92x108 cm, oil on board, from Eye and Site 1

d’Esterre. Subjectivity 2, 2004, 92×108 cm, oil on board, from Eye and Site 1

This painting was about the relationship between artist and model. The model’s assertive behaviour reversed the usual procedure where the artist had control of the gaze.

Influences from the comic strip

My compositions some times constructed in triptych or diptych format hark back to an era of comics and comic strips. The topic may be complex and have embedded in the imagery reference to history, myth or allegory. By dividing the composition into segments the artist can suggest  many dimensions and layered meaning to the viewer where each segment became part of the whole composition.

E. d'Esterre. About Durer's Witch, 1995 - 1997, triptych, 90x252 cm, oil on canvas, from exegesis titled Feminist Poetics

E. d’Esterre. About Durer’s Witch, 1995 – 1997, triptych, 90×252 cm, oil on canvas, from exegesis titled Feminist Poetics

On the other hand an artist may want to portray  several versions  of a topic and paint a series of related images but each image can exist on its own.

Momento mori 1, 2006, 50x770 cm, oil on gessoed paper, part of a series titled Eye and Site 2

Momento mori 1, 2006, 50×770 cm, oil on gessoed paper, part of a series titled Eye and Site 2

Momento Mori 2, 2006, 52x70 cm, oil on gessoed paper, from Eye and Site 2

Momento Mori 2, 2006, 52×70 cm, oil on gessoed paper, from Eye and Site 2

Momento Mori 3, 2006, 52x70 cm, oil on gessoed paper, from Eye and Site 2

Momento Mori 3, 2006, 52×70 cm, oil on gessoed paper, from Eye and Site 2

Although the comic strip derived  images read horizontally I also enjoy suggesting to the viewer a sense of depth in parts of the composition  that could be read as though looking through a window. I enjoy fusing together different ways of looking.