Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

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


Art about Heads, part 1

Metaphor for the Human Condition

Portraits can tell a story without a long narrative structure because the artist tries to capture a point or in this case points in time within the space of one image. The image is still but it alluded to action and thought. I tried to capture some aspects of the mother and daughter relationship at a time when the mother’s influence waned and prominence of the peer group and the daughter’s sense of identity took the stage. The abstracted shapes like the keyhole and window referred to elements of vision about elucidation, obscurity and transition. The red column shape echoed those in ancient Minoan rituals that depicted aspects of female initiation.

Above the Window,1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on Fabriano

Above the Window, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on Fabriano 28×18 cm print, 50×35 cm paper

 

The title of the series to which these prints belong is Natalie with the Gaze and the Glance, 2009 – 2010.

Red Column, 2009, intaglio and drypoint

Red Column 1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 25×18 cm print, 35×25 cm paper

Red Column 2, 1/1, 2009, 26x18 cm print, 37x28 cm on Fabriano paper

Red Column 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio, 26×18 cm print, 37×28 cm paper

Imago, 1/1, 2009, 25x21 cm print, 37x28 cm paper, drypoint and intaglio

Imago, 1/1, 2009, drypoint and intaglio 25×21 cm print, 37×28 cm paper

Growing Persona, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint.

Growing Persona, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 26×18 cm print, 50×35 cm paper

In Focus, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint

In Focus, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 25×18 cm print, 50×35 cm paper

Growing Focus, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint. Sold

Growing Focus, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint. Sold

Risen, 1/1, 2009,  intaglio and drypoint

Risen, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 26×18 cm print, 38×28 cm paper

Enchroaching Memory 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint

Enchroaching Memory 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 25×18 cm print, 37×25 cm paper

Enchroaching Memory 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint.

Enchroaching Memory 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint 24×20 cm print, 35×28 cm paper

The Keyhole 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper

The Keyhole Image 1, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper. Sold

The Keyhole Image 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper

The Keyhole Image 2, 1/1, 2009, intaglio and drypoint on rice paper.

Terms “gaze and “glance” referred to modes of seeing by artists, the first produced a structured work arranged in layers where underneath paint layers were gradually obscured until attainment of the desired effect for example in European oil painting. On the other hand the glance mode was more immediate and brush work encapsulated the image in one layer as in Oriental brush painting. I integrated both ways of seeing into my compositions.

In earlier blog titled Line drawing with faces and figures I discussed styles of line work and printmaking.

Art titled Contemplating the Golden Spike 1, 2013, 55x75 cm, gouache, charcoal and pastel from Begin with Sand, Silt and Water


Artwork, preparatory sketches and photographs

These sketches and photographs were preliminaries for the body of work titled Begin with Sand, Silt and Water, 2012 – 2013,  and were a part of my process before and during painting, a part of memorising and reconnecting with original feelings on site.

There is a slideshow on my Home Page where you can see how the paintings turned out.