Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


Frottage Beginnings

Background

This mixed media painting began with frottage on suitable paper when I placed it over indentations at Lake Mungo and rubbed the surface with charcoal and graphite. Early days but this image developed very quickly when I obscured most of the frottage with too much gesso laden with graphite and pastel. I rotated the image to a landscape format  in keeping with a long sand dune. With the changed compositional format I blocked in the basic shape of the frottage and placed it into an abstracted landscape, tore away pieces of paper leaving en etched look that could allude to the eroded condition of the dunes known as The Walls of China. After pouring thin layers of opaque paint over parts of the composition I faded parts of it and then emphasised other small areas with highlights and red chalk.

 

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“Selfies” in oil paint

The genre of self portraiture, once limited to artists (or photographers when they shot a mirror-image), has been democratised with the invention of the cell phone and almost become the mainstream genre at present.

This  artistic genre could be described as one where viewer and artist share the same gaze. The viewer sharing the gaze can look into the artist’s soul and mind on one hand, or in some other examples of traditional art share the way that an artist of the Baroque for instance gave a self portrait to a prospective client to be ‘read’ like a CV where skill was displayed in the painting  of flesh and different fabrics as well as metal and other surfaces.

 

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Self-Portrait in Action. 2014IMG_2259Oil paint was the ideal  medium in which to render beautiful surfaces but now in the 21st century what does it offer the viewer and artist in this genre with its characteristic flat surface in comparison to performances or conceptual art projects about identity? Do the reasons for it existence still seem relevant?

What keeps me interested is that I can allude to past symbolism as well as explore psychological experiences, vulnerabilities and memories.  The qualities of transparency, semi-opacity and opacity within the medium help me to depict these transitions. By breaking up the form of the head with different objects that allude to the processes of sight and painting action I can denote moments when the artist in a sense “plunges into darkness” ( Derrida) that mentally exists  between observation of the image and paint application. In this small study I began with a drawn line and then moved into paint areas, transparent glazes and then back to the element of line. In one way the act of painting becomes a “selfie” and not my appearance.

 


Artwork and Under Painting

My process of image making is often accidental or an organised accident. Images often emerge from failed etchings or gouache where I hit a brick wall, put them in the too hard basket and walk away. When I return to them I see them differently. The examples here are failed etchings left for 18 months.

 

The solution was to create a mixed media image, keep part of the original image from the print zinc plate, change the subject matter and meaning from the mother Demeter self-portrait from Natalie with the Gaze and the Glance to that of artist engaged in the process of painting, challenging some of the conventions as an allegory for vision and insight.

The last three images are almost complete whereas the first ones are quite raw and  unfocused. Although untitled they refer back to earlier paintings in series titled Eye and Site 1,2 and 3. In the mode of Hildegard of Bingen who saw the mirror not as a source of vanity but of spiritual self-examination, I find the examination of the conventions of oil painting an endless source of symbolism that is about an inquiry in to how images of women are constructed and evaluated.


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.