Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

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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Surrealist portrait titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, 50x75 cm, oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's process


Art and Poetry at Lake Mungo, part 2

From a series of paintings titled Inside the Poet’s Process

Painting titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2013 – 14

Surrealist portrait titled The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, 50x75 cm, oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's process

The Walls of China are Silent, 2014, oil on canvas 50×75 cm

The early stage formed quickly perhaps too quickly because as the painting progressed I felt that the initial freshness was compromised. I repainted structure into the face but in the process I lost transparencies and an ethereal type of atmosphere. It was part of my way to suggest that sense of remote insignificance and almost feeling like another grain of sand. The title referred to a row of sand dunes where humans inhale the dusty atmosphere, the dust of past silent civilisation made worse by extreme drought at the time. The image of an enlarged ear referred to a heightened state of awareness as we listened to the land.

In the following stages I simplified the lake shape and blurred it with a poured semi-transparent layer of paint as a way to depict the sand and dust enveloping the poet’s image.  In recent changes I reconfigured the head and face, reestablished part of the form and introduced a shape that referred to a direction of vision and focus. (I often felt as though I was standing in the middle of no-where.)

A dark hair-like shape hovering above the head reminded me of windy conditions prevalent at the time and it seemed to refer to how a poem may form.

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The result is not working for me yet and looks too laboured and over-stated having lost earlier transparent passages of paint and line. Fluidity and movement and a sense of vulnerability are missing.

I reintroduced a linear rectangle shape. Not happy with the colour intensity I modified it and added more body colour.

Surface sanding was required and more detail with the idea of introducing a more tonally nuanced background that would partly obscure the newly introduced elements. With the background repainted I introduced a grey sweep of hair that I changed with a white line encompassing the general shape. My depiction of the hair changed because in the earlier version the type of brush stroke suggested a state of turbulent, windswept atmosphere and an imagined process of the poet’s creativity. On recollection I don’t mind the high rise hair-do and may use it in another image.

However I wanted a reversal of my earlier intention and reconstructed the hair shape to allude instead to a sense of silence.  It mirrored a hesitation, a type of containment we felt before heading across the dry lake bed toward the distant dunes named ‘The Walls of China’ that shimmered like a mirage. The poet’s process had barely begun.

Ear to the Foreground, 2014, 62x84 cm, mixed media and oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's Process


Art and Poetry at Lake Mungo, part 1

Image from the series titled Inside the Poet’s Process

Painting titled Ear to the Foreground, 2014

Ear to the Foreground, 2014, 62x84 cm, mixed media and oil on canvas from the series titled Poet's Process

Ear to the Foreground, 2014, mixed media and oil on canvas

When my friend and I set out for Lake Mungo from a camping ground garden of tropical vegetation beside the Murray River our vehicle soon encountered the very familiar corrugated surface and bull dust-covered large pot holes of many Outback roads. The contrast between each environment could not have been more stark as the temperature soared, dust increased and vegetation became sparse. At Lake Mungo National Park having checked out the visitor’s centre I became aware of the silence, wide horizon and canopy of cloudless blue sky. This initial impression was what I tried to express as I relived the experience through a poem written by my travel companion poet Patricia Sykes. After many conversations with Patricia about identifying response to environment and what and how the word/image flows from one another into a poem’s structure; meaning, rhythm, sound, words their position, lines and their format, my aim was to imagine and internalise points in this discussion about a creative process. Instead of drawing and painting outlines of a portrait form in a background space I wanted inlines not to amplify perspective and form but to flow into the environment and coalesce into proto imagery as it formed mentally and often instantly appeared as if from nowhere in the mind’s eye. Baroque era iconography often referred to the connection between poetry and painting in the form of allegorical figures called Pictura and Poesia; one woman with brush and palette the other with pen and paper. I began by blocking in the image with thinned paint and compressed charcoal. The image started with a dune shape behind the head. I changed this because my first impression was a perceived emptiness as we both confronted the dunes from a distance. To reach them required driving across the dry lake bed of Lake Mungo.  I added an abstracted shape that alluded to the path of vision. The shape referring to the line of vision obscured the poet’s eye. I intended to make a reference to the black algae encrusted lake bed situated along this line of vision. But it didn’t work and looked too busy so simplicity was required. ( I always want to put in everything knowing most of it will be painted over.) I lightened the background colour as the previous layer looked thin and scrappy. Intense blue of the background needed some body before another application and adjustment and addition to the head image. This painting didn’t take long and the original fresh energy of the initial sketch carried into the final layers which I try to do but not always successfully. I like the underpainting to remain part of the final layer. This image can also be viewed at:  www.facebook.com/pages/Desterreart

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