Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


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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.


Landscape with Ancient Rock

  • I placed a slide show on my Home Page consisting of several paintings from a series I titled Begin with Sand Silt and Water, 2012 – 2013. They were inspired by a feeling that many experience in the Australian outback. Although this continent lacks high mountain ranges and deep canyons and is in comparison quite flat it does have very ancient rocks formation, fossils and places worn to skeletal rock. Flimsy and fragile soil covering however reveals the underlying clues to the earth’s history.

The paintings produced after traveling, exploring, observing, sketching, photographing and taking frottage from rock surfaces develop as a result of these preliminaries. The locations depicted in the paintings are at Lake Mungo in New South Wales, Brachina Gorge in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia and close to home at Point Roadknight.

My overwhelming feelings are a mixture of wonder and curiosity about evolution of ancient reefs and seabeds, once in shallow seas 550 million years ago, into the Flinders Ranges. Paintings with titles termed “Golden Spike” refer to a landmark also in this area where fossils discovered as imprints on the sea floor reveal ancient jelly fish-like creatures. These Ediacaran fossils evolutionary significance as bilateral asexual organisms was their capacity to move, for example Sprigina and Dickensonia. In 2007 Dr Mary Droser discovered a coral-like creature resembling a worm that evolved the capacity to reproduce sexually.

Art landscape painting titled Golden Spike 2, 2012,  oil on canvas 60x45 cm

Painting in oil titled Golden Spike 2, 2012, oil on canvas 60×45 cm

The painting titled Remnant Lake Mungo, 2013 was created from feelings about timelessness and human insignificance in the desert, stripped bare under a huge almost overbearing sky. A long drive through dust-covered pot holes, corrugations and avoiding roadkill my fellow traveler and I approached Lake Mungo. The vista before us consisted of a dried lake bed, a clay pan and large dunes called ‘the Walls of China’. Briefly, pre-50,000 years ago the red soil of the lunettes rimming Mungo is termed the Gol Gol unit. 50,000 years ago white quartz sand blown onto the lunettes formed the Mungo Unit. As an overflow and part of the Willandra creek system water was plentiful and vegetation grew on the lunettes. 30,000 – 15,000 years ago clay pellets formed on the exposed mud flats. Sand and clay pellets blew onto the lunettes, forming the Zanci unit. 15,000 years ago to the present Mungo dried, more clay pellets built the lunettes, water erosion created deep gullies and wind-blown sand formed large mobile dunes and salt concentrated clay formed a black coating of erosion resistant algal crust.

Archaeologists discovered Mungo Woman and later Mungo Man thought at least 40,000 years old as well as stone artifacts, middens and fossilised footprints.

Art landscape painting titled Remnant Lake Mungo, 2013, oil on board. Lake Mungo is a dried lake in southern New South Wales, Australia

Landscape painting titled Remnant Lake Mungo, 2013, oil on board 45×55 cm

Point Roadknight just off the Great Ocean Road out of Anglesea is a land mark where erosion reveals aspects of geology in the form of what appears vertical fossilised tree roots that resemble columns in an ancient ruin. Have roots penetrated the above layer that may be an ancient sea bed made porous and through which seeped mineralised and calcified rainwater? The ‘columns’ appear anchored to hard rock formed by an ancient pyroclastic flow from hinterland volcanoes.

Others have various descriptions of this place such as ‘sinister’ and ‘threatening’ but for me it is a home to hooded plovers, a gray heron as well as my ‘observatory’. Colour, pattern, tonal contrast and texture in sky, rock, sand and water are sources of endless fascination.

Art, landscape painting titled Like an Entablature, 2012, 52x73 cm, gouache and pastel

Landscape titled Like an Entablature, 2012, gouache and pastel 52×73 cm

Ancient rocks, Banded Iron Formation on the floor of Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park in the Pilbara Western Australia


Landscape, Ancient Rocks in the Pilbara

Etching technique consisting of intaglio and chine -colle enabled me to express and evoke a feeling of mystery and the sense of the sublime when confronted with the age of rocks and their significance. When in Dales Gorge in Karijini National Park I felt awed by the depth of the rock-forming steep gorge. On the gorge floor strata within the rocks alternate from pink brown and red purple. This layering caused by oxidation of the iron laden ocean when oxygen produced from stromatolites photosynthesis gradually entered the Earth’s atmosphere.  The striped pattern built up from the ocean floor as early as three billion years ago. Water cut through the gorge over millions of years as  land gradually uplifted.

Several etchings are artist’s proof  and  require fine tuning before I print an edition. I print small editions because I prefer to change the plate and produce one off images because it enables me to see the subject in many different ways.

Etching about ancient rocks in the Pilbara,

….…and then the Ocean Rusted 4, 2013, etching and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape etching titled ...and then the Ocean Rusted 3, 2013 by Elaine d'Esterre about ancient rocks in the Pilbara

...and then the Ocean Rusted 3, 2013, viscosity technique and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching titled ........and then the Ocean Rusted 2, 2013, about a process of ancient rock formation influenced by a trip to the Pilbara.

…...and the the Ocean Rusted 2, 2013, etching and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching titled ........and then the Ocean Rusted 1, 2013, about a process of ancient rock formation influenced by a trip to the Pilbara.

An artist’s proof in the series titled .….and then the Ocean Rusted, 2013, intaglio, 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching......and then the Ocean Rusted, A/P, 2013, etching and chine- colle by Elaine d'Esterre. The image was about how strata of ancient rock built up parts of the Pilbara 3 billion years ago as oxygen introduced into the atmosphere caused the ocean to rust.

Artist’s Proof titled, ….and then the Ocean Rusted’, 2013, etching and chine – colle 25×12 cm

Landscape contemporary etching titled ........and then the Ocean Rusted , artist's proof, 2013, about a process of ancient rock formation influenced by a trip to the Pilbara.

……and then the the Ocean Rusted, A/P, 2013, etching and chine- colle 25×12 cm

 .....and the Ocean Rusted series, 2013

AP for ...and then the Ocean Rusted series

Landscape artist's proof etching and chine - colle for...and the Ocean Rusted 4

Landscape artist’s proof 4 for…...and then  the Ocean Rusted

My trip to the Pilbara in April this year can be read and viewed with photographs and frottages done on sight in my first posts on this blog.

This week I tried more proofs on different textured paper – rice paper, a thickly textured but porous spongy handmade paper as well as Fabriano.

I think line crispness suffered due to too much texture and the second last one looks too scrubby.

I love the intensity of black and my idea was that it would evoke a sense of mystery regarding this 3 billion year old clue to a momentous moment in Earth’s history.

I discovered a blog titled geo-aesthetics which sounded more accurate a description to my imagery than the term contemporary landscape because the content as well as the form is central.

The address of the blog is geo-aesthetics.blogspot.com.au