Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Lake Mungo Skies

The underpainting,  developed months ago, was vertically formatted for an intended interior self-portrait before I changed my mind and placed it in horizontal landscape format in fitting with ‘lake mungo paintings’ now that finally I felt submerged in the subject.

In this image I recall my first visit to Lake Mungo National Park in the late 1980s when a group of fellow travellers and I  could only get time off in December. Undeterred we ventured forth into the heat, dust and flies. The trip although adventurous was also disappointing due to the forty plus degree heat which dictated we explore the lunettes late in the day. Little work, frustration and discomfort sent us heading for the Darling River and Lake Menindee which at that time was full.

In this image I tried to record memories of these feelings and how later in my studio I reflected on how experiencing that environment and its forms influenced the way in which I constructed the imagery. Anatomical shapes, landscape and atmospheric shapes merge into each other.

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Lake Mungo Landscape (work in progress)

At a half way stage through another Mungo scape difficulties often arise. Before this stage I often feel that I have the composition under control with the first few layers of thin lean paint consistency shapes texture, line, colour and forms coalesce into a flash memory of the particular place. Random shapes that settle after poured, spattered and bleeding paint often suggest other avenues. At this juncture another mental image appears and interrupts the original flash memory. By letting the composition evolve and not trying to control it by wanting to recapture a former memory, some other aspect often reveals itself. I have to wait, then pounce and hope that I will like it.

 


Lake Mungo Experience

In this continuation of the Mungo Experience I tried to merge the idea of history represented by the ear and converge it in the artist’s mind with the atmosphere of this place represented by the sun.

 

 

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Previous stages of Watching by a Mungo Dune, 2016

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Self Portrait ( “Paint and Elements” ) at Mungo

A return to an old friend, again! and again!! This is one of those paintings that seems to go on forever especially when I tell myself that I have captured the essence of the image, the statement and having done all that, it should and usually does fall into place. Not this time, so I am observing my mind, the mental process where I seem to be chasing something that eludes me. The other alternatives are taking to it with an axe or putting it away for yet another time.

The painting is a bit like a memoir where I am trying to depict the experience of a haunting but hostile landscape. I wanted to paint the experience of being in it not on it as a detached observer- melting in the heat, drowning in dust and sand as well as avoiding swarms of thirsty bees but at the same time watching as animals crept up to out camp looking for water.

Anyway I reached for tubes of colour and sloshed them onto the background, grabbed an oil painting stick and covered up the fiddly bits that had started to annoy me and felt much better. I wanted the paint to work it out for me. However after that small flurry of excitement it was time to stand back and consider the newish look and let it settle in my mind for a while……….

 

 


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Exploration at Lake Mungo

Background

This painting has been through the wringer and almost landed in the bin.

Originating as an etching, gessoed, painted in a grey mixing raw umber, cobalt and white with a touch of naples yellow the image, I imagined it as an interior containing references to the painting process, vision and reflection. Then I sanded it back, employed  new colours because images from Lake Mungo kept drifting up and pulling me in a different direction.

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The first version, as an interior in soft grey-green, referred to poetics around vision that morphed into a landscape/mindscape about the light at Mungo and sunset. Still in vertical portrait format I reestablished the face and it then became about how we position ourselves within the landscape on many different levels.

One level was about trying to integrate European oil painting conventions into the Australian landscape-a popular theme by many artists. On another level, my question was about the relationship of humanity to the environment and whether or not we see ourselves as dominating it or working with it? Then there was the way in which the representation of women and nature have been depicted by the dominant culture as possessions onto which all sorts of objectification has occurred.

I’ve tried to find a way to express being in the landscape. The exaggerated depiction of ear refers symbolically to history.

I like to combine figuration, ( plastic and volume) with elements of abstraction.


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.

Sunset and Oil Paint, 2015


Artist at Lake Mungo

I’ve found it quite a challenge to capture the way that the last citron flash of light at sunset in the desert can be a metaphor for aspects of painting about painting. It correlates to the flash of inspiration as it transitions into paint placed onto a two dimensional surface. The eye of inspiration closes or is obscured as the other eye opens to the process.

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