Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Thinking about Painting

 

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‘Thinking about Painting’ and its process is a topic that I try to depict every now and then. I like to imagine different moments when between viewing the subject and then turning away, retaining aspects of the image before the hand conveys it to paint and canvas.

The black light globe indicates the moment when the artist looks from the subject and is momentarily ‘blinded’ as thoughts turn inward to the imagination where the mind delivers aspects of the remembered image to another mental place. One eye is obscured as thoughts about paint and how its qualities and manipulations are organised before the hand moves to depict some of the image. At the same time the warm colours situated on the artist’s head indicate the ‘ah ha’ moment when the remembered image and paint manipulation coalesce.

The composition became clearer as I moved through layers going from more detailed and complex to simplified. I often  put too much into the composition but usually cut away unnecessary detail eventually. Colour as an elements receded as I used a tonal less busy paint combination.


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?.

 

 

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Two Self-Portraits at Mungo

Final Stages now titled Painted by Lake Mungo. In this painting I wanted to depict how the landscape paints the painter rather than the artist imagining that he or she dominates it.

In Painted by the Sunset at Mungo I tried for a similar idea in the final stages of this painting.

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Unfinished Paintings from ‘Eye and Site’

Behind several stacked paintings placed in a category titled Eye and Site, a topic of vision I found two images that I had been unsure about for a few years. They began as an experiment where I tried combining etching with oil paint on a finely woven canvas. The printing ink adhered quite well so I stretched the image over a frame and then had a go at trying the oil combo.  Even though I gessoed around the etching somehow the oil bled into it but not enough to obscure the highlights. The random bleeding gave the face, traditionally rendered,  a surreal appearance and my depiction of a light fitting and its shaft of light then merged with the distorted image of the face. I like playing with form and light and how they both distort, in a graphic way, figurative imagery.

Well these distortions seemed to tell me that on one level light could also look  form-like and then form merge into light. On another level, light was meant to elucidate form but here it obscured it. So I was partly happy put them aside to ponder, ponder. Much later however apart from looking raw I began to see them differently.

I wanted them to say something about how in darkness we see back light years and in day light our vision is limited to immediate objects. Then I thought of how, by including the image of my head torch like a miner’s lamp fastened to my forehead, it might improve the composition and what it was that I was trying to say. So I blurred the original light source leaving a faint shape indicating a transition from light shining onto a form to light coming from it.

Now I am resisting the urge to dribble pink paint onto the image or should I leave it? Is this another ‘light is in the blood’ or is  ‘light in the blood’ the same as light in the universe? Yes looks like another pink ear coming up.

A clearer head this morning so I’ve let things be.

 

 

 


Mungo Hairdo

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This painting began as a depiction of a wind swept poet with letters and words transported in the wind and then onto her forehead. It didn’t work, cast aside and changed the idea to inspiration by starlight which also didn’t work and looked a bit stilted. Weeks passed. In frustration I poured 2 paint layer together and left them in the sun to dry and forgot about for the rest of the day. One greyish layer thinned with turps and a little oil flowed on top of an opaque creamy oilier layer.  Instead of the whole surface being totally changed the paint had ideas of its own.

The poet with the Afro hairstyle morphed into poet with Mungo hairstyle, incorporated into a windswept tree shape that seemed appropriate after the battering we received in a sandstorm.

I like the rawness and immediacy of the paint strokes in the earlier versions and feel that at this stage I may have fiddled too much even though I liked the unexpected imagery caused by paint tensions.


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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.

 

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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.

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 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”.