Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


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Mungo Collage and Sounds of Drought

Both these images, the composition and forms were arranged randomly, settled into this format as I pushed around each element then blew air onto the, at first, carefully arranged pieces of collage and then let hand made paper waft around and land anywhere. A bit more shuffling around, walking away, letting a few more elements land around central pieces of imagery, tearing more paper, overlapping to obtain transparencies and nuanced areas until the desired effect settled in my mind.

The pieces of collage consisted of torn drypoint etchings, intaglio etching, pastel and handmade papers as well as dotted pianola roll paper.


Collagraphs about Mungo

Collage from previous etchings are mixed into the second collagraph, whereas, in the first, I combined a torn collagraph element with another piece of collagraph. This grey piece of rectangular shaped BFK Rives printmaking paper, obtained from a ghost washy print that picked up some ink remnant left on the plate, resembled part of Mungo’s terrain between the red dust bearing hills and the pink dunes.

In the second image the soft grey area was printed from another washy (drop of gum turps. and a little oil ) ghost print which being very liquid spread across to the edge of page as it passed under the roller. Then I combined two pieces of torn image, one consisting of an intaglio and the other a drypoint on perspex from past leftovers, into ‘seeing heads’. The beige surround alludes to viewing as tho through a frame.

I was trying to depict two types of vision into a single image. One head is sightless and ‘sees’ as if from below the landscape and ‘becomes’ the landscape, and the other sighted head and torso view the landscape through and with perspectival visual construction.


Mungo Identity

Background

When I visited this site, photographing, sketching it, taking rubbings and earth stains it was challenging on many levels. Firstly there were the heat, dust, flies and bees and wind storms. Finding shelter in a flimsy tent in this temporarily harsh environment was inadequate and it felt as though we may have been enveloped by the sand and blown away.

Secondly, the history, archaeological discoveries and how this place was found, revealed by erosion makes it a place of significance. Sheep grazing removed vegetation that exposed the lunette and eventually the site of where Mungo Woman was unearthed ( 40,000 + years).

At the time of each arrival, although ten years apart, I felt a sense of unease and fragmented as though I was viewing this sand dune lunette from an upside down position and  I hoped that on my second time around that my feelings would be together, but no such luck and the painting process attests to my efforts trying to get my head around it. I started it at the beginning of last year and threw the painting aside many times.

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Anyway when I arrived at the image of the solitary up right figure I think it was about how I could depict the way in which the sense of space differed to that of other similar fairly remote locations. A bit of a puzzle because I had lived in outback Central Queensland and this place was similar but much further south. It was as though the element of space or atmosphere was like a solid constricting presence. The exact opposite of how I thought I would feel.

Photographs of Mungo National Park

 


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.

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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?


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Art about Heads in the Landscape (Brachina Gorge)

Titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013, 54x72 cm, oil on gessoed paper

Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

Detail from oil painting titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

Detail from oil painting titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

When I place a head in the landscape-type of background I try to depict a momentary thought as it appears to cross the subject’s face. This process is about how I think and understand the way that time, the ages and history are recorded in rocks. For me gorge formations are like reading and imagining a story about the earth’s history.

The Golden Spike mentioned in the artwork titles is a particular rock formation dated about 500 million years old located in Brachina gorge in the Flinders Ranges. This locale is also home to fossils that are examples of the first animal life. 

The head-images, abstracted and partially exaggerated anatomy meld with parts of the landscape as though the skull and earth’s crust both hold beneath them the forces of creativity and nature. The abstracted shapes that seem to happen come from an imagined element of the thinking process.

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


Sketch and Underpainting stage for Untitled Commission

Preliminary studies of Point Roadknight

This commissioned painting in its very early stages started out as a seascape depiction of erosion at Point Roadknight but something in me had become dissatisfied and I felt like a change of subject matter. I turned the canvas on its side into vertical position and imagined how I could retain aspects of the original subject and combine it with an emergent figurative shape that seemed to float as a ghostly indistinct form. The idea figures merging into and out of landforms such as those in Begin with Sand, Silt and Water seems suitable now only instead of those done with the Golden Spike in the Flinders Ranges I would depict aspects of Point Roadknight.

These sketches are the preliminary studies done several months ago before I began this commission where I have been given free rein.