Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

Surrealist portrait titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, 50x75 cm, oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's process


Art and Poetry at Lake Mungo, part 2

From a series of paintings titled Inside the Poet’s Process

Painting titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2013 – 14

Surrealist portrait titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, 50x75 cm, oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's process

The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, oil on canvas 50×75 cm

The early stage formed quickly perhaps too quickly because as the painting progressed I felt that the initial freshness was compromised. I repainted structure into the face but in the process I lost transparencies and an ethereal type of atmosphere. It was part of my way to suggest that sense of remote insignificance and almost feeling like another grain of sand. The title referred to a row of sand dunes where humans inhale the dusty atmosphere, the dust of past silent civilisation made worse by extreme drought at the time. The image of an enlarged ear referred to a heightened state of awareness as we listened to the land.

In the following stages I simplified the lake shape and blurred it with a poured semi-transparent layer of paint as a way to depict the sand and dust enveloping the poet’s image.  In recent changes I reconfigured the head and face, reestablished part of the form and introduced a shape that referred to a direction of vision and focus. (I often felt as though I was standing in the middle of no-where.)

A dark hair-like shape hovering above the head reminded me of windy conditions prevalent at the time and it seemed to refer to how a poem may form.

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The result is not working for me yet and looks too laboured and over-stated having lost earlier transparent passages of paint and line. Fluidity and movement and a sense of vulnerability are missing.

I reintroduced a linear rectangle shape. Not happy with the colour intensity I modified it and added more body colour.

Surface sanding was required and more detail with the idea of introducing a more tonally nuanced background that would partly obscure the newly introduced elements. With the background repainted I introduced a grey sweep of hair that I changed with a white line encompassing the general shape. My depiction of the hair changed because in the earlier version the type of brush stroke suggested a state of turbulent, windswept atmosphere and an imagined process of the poet’s creativity. On recollection I don’t mind the high rise hair-do and may use it in another image.

However I wanted a reversal of my earlier intention and reconstructed the hair shape to allude instead to a sense of silence.  It mirrored a hesitation, a type of containment we felt before heading across the dry lake bed toward the distant dunes named ‘The Walls of China’ that shimmered like a mirage. The poet’s process had barely begun.