Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings


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Collage and Texture

When I compare collage and mixed media compositions with oil painted compositions sharing the same topic, I become aware of how different media often suit particular topics.

In this case contemporary art about the environment and the forces of nature somehow is suited to the dryness of rice paper as well as handmade paper as they become simulations of the earth’s surface and landforms. The dusty terrain, desiccated rock surfaces, cracked salt-laden and powdery surfaces and dry sand depictions, although semi abstracted, seem so much easier to portray with various collages than with the lush textures and viscosity of oil paint. Impasto especially can look too lush when alluding to Australia’s ancient land.

One solution to attain the powdery delicate but ancient bleached look was when I mixed grated pastel into gesso and then applied liberally on top of gesso ground whether on canvas, paper or wood surface. I usually begin with this technique but am often not quite satisfied with the end result so I will keep on experimenting.

I feel as though this small series has ended for now and oil painting is calling once again back to psychological portraits where oil paint is a sympathetic medium in which to portray subtleties  and nuanced tonal values.


Old and New Images

At Muddy’s She Shed during the weekend Surf Coast Arts Trail event, the studio, temporarily transformed into a gallery, had a steady stream of viewers on both days. Interested participants created gelatine prints using Anglesea flora. Several items that included Maggi Jean’s ceramics, small sculptures – (a small elephant herd) and artists’ books – ( Anglesea flora and seaweeds) found good homes as well as Evie Wood’s poetry books, cards, watercolours and an acrylic still life titled Pink Lady Interior, 2016.

 

Point Addis Daisy, 2016 by Magaret Jean.

Point Addis Daisy, 2016 by Margaret Jean.

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Pink Lady Interior, 2016, acrylic, 40×40 cm by Evie Wood.

Several of my digital prints were also purchased. The oldest had been part of my PhD exegesis, titled Natalie (Demeter/Persephone) and the most recent was a reproduction of a viscosity printed collagraph that started as an experiment with the viscosity printing technique but also required additional chine-colle as a way to give the composition some space and atmosphere.

Natalie ( Demeter / Peresophone), 2016, ( original 1995, intaglio, ink and wash, 98 X 66 cm.)

Snowfields 2, 2016, viscosity print and hand made paper, 50x35cm

Snowfields 2, 2016, viscosity print and hand made paper, 50x35cm


Abstract Etching Collage

A moment when torn remnants of failed intaglio prints came together mentally. Something drew me away from my planned oil paintings and diverted me back to pieces of an old ‘jigsaw’. Unarticulated at the time, compositions that slipped away from my mind but returned and demanded unexpected attention.

The first image titled Leaving Lake Mungo, 2016 in diptych format, consists of a collagraph with an image of a dune that joins to an intaglio from which a figure is pulling away to merge into obscurity beneath layers of chine-colle and pieces of collage.

The second image titled Planning to Dive, 2016 refers to an older series of images titled The Diver, 2011,  an allegory about a type of creative process. it consists of intaglio, collage and torn intaglio, transparent paper and pianola paper with punctured holes as well as a piece of pastel paper with frottage.

The Goddess Return, 2016 consists of  a collagraph on top of which sits a small intaglio joined by transparent paper over silver leaf. The goddess image ‘joins the sky and earth’.

Leaving Lake Mungo, 2016Planning to Dive, 2016IThe Goddess Return


Artwork on Paper at Shopify

I’m trying a new approach to selling artwork. I still have exhibitions at galleries, certainly with large oil paintings, but moving with the times why not try an approach augmenting the gallery exhibition? The main point about websites and blogs is that viewers get a detailed description about how a particular work came about, they can pursue an image and ponder its pros and cons in their own space without being rushed or pressurised and can contact the artist with any pertinent questions.

Works on paper are a convenient medium owing to size and weight which can be shipped, cost effectively, to any destination quite easily.

The works chosen are from a series of etching, chine-colle and collage titled And then the Ocean Rusted, 2014. The title refers to when, 2-3 billion years ago, the World’s  iron laden oceans began rusting, laying down sediment, as oxygen from cyanobacteria entered the atmosphere causing the rusting process. I visited this location, taking rubbings/frottage from these metamorphosed sedimentary deposits from different gorges in Karijini National Park in West Australia which I combined with intaglio, an aspect of etching technique and printed in my studio. The whole series can be viewed at http://pinterest.com/elainedesterre/etching-and-chine-colle-titled-and-then-the-ocean/ 

 

The largest dimensions of the handmade prints can be viewed at

https://elainedesterreart.com/artwork-on-paper-at-shopify


Pilbara Revision: “memento mori”

I returned to last incomplete artwork about the Pilbara in Western Australia where ancient rocks termed the Banded Iron Formation, 2-3 billion years old reminded me of memento mori  paintings. In the traditional versions of this topic a figure holds a skull contemplating life’s fleeting span. As an alternative, I get a buzz from observing geological layers in particular landforms that like a type of calendar remind me of my mortality.


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Etching Collage about Brachina Gorge

I returned to a couple of unfinished prints from last year to see if renovation was possible and as they were left overs from a variable edition, maybe with the passing of time, a different aspect of the Brachina Gorge subject matter may come up.

The original print titled “In Search of the Golden Spike”, 2014 was the springboard from which the new etching collage developed. This image had lost its freshness and looked tight and laboured so I placed gold leaf over part of the image and cut away a small section to reveal the part of the underneath image. Gold leaf looked too much so I glued over it a layer of handmade paper also tearing away a small section revealing the gold leaf as well as the original intaglio. Now I feel that in the central area I need more underlying nuanced tone and line to connect both sections of the composition. Definitely needs work.

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The second image began also with the same plate but printed onto a chine colle that consisted of beige hand-made paper. At this stage however it was in vertical format and looked very pale and wan so I added gold leaf and then a layer of thin rice paper to reduce the glare and make a base and space for a second intaglio. I was bored with the image on this plate so decided to print another from a different series and see how they combined together. But by using only half of the image overcrowding may have been avoided so I elected to use the image of the head on the right side of the plate but which printed left in this artwork.

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Untitled

untitled

The two heads turning toward each other are separated by the image depicting the golden spike as though having searched for its location in Brachina Gorge they now ‘become’ part of the landscape. I like the idea of how over time we do become soil and are eventually part of earth’s stratified terrain.


Etching Collage about Lake Mungo

Two more images about Lake Mungo that refer to the landscape and how it may be understood in relation to its geology.

I have continued combining metallic leaf, handmade papers and intaglio with some intaglio as collage.


Silver Leaf and Intaglio Experiment

Background

The etchings in the slide show are earlier experimental versions using metal leaf with black etching ink with varying degrees of success.

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In my most recent attempts, this time with silver leaf I also added a red ground because I felt that the silver may be too cool.


Etching on Copperplate

Last stage of an edition of 12

 

The light grey tone was the first, red second placed and registered over the grey and then the black area was printed last. I hadn’t done a drypoint using rollers and roulettes to get tonal areas as opposed to aquatint and etching with acid combined with masking out different areas of the composition. The result, which I’m still adjusting to, is more graphic than my usually painterly look especially without any chine-colle application.

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Copperplate etching, first stage

Copperplate is quite a hard surface in comparison to zinc or aluminium. I haven’t etched on copper for a while. This was an old plate with an aquatint that provided me with a dark area from which I began the composition. The composition is based on an earlier work titled Maria found the “golden spike”, an oil on gessoed paper.

Titled Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013, 54x72 cm, oil on gessoed paper

Maria Located the Golden Spike, 2013

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The term “golden spike” refers to a part of the early boundary within the Flinders Ranges where 635-542 million  year old fossils were found. The significance of the find led the world science community to recognise a new geological period termed the Ediacaran period. The three printed images are firstly with red ink and then I tried a black area on top of the red. In the third image I printed red over dark grey in the background making it a little too dark. I needed to have a lighter grey under the red as a base. I then masked out the areas left as white.

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Several attempts at a suitable base layer with trial and error.

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More modification with the red layer.

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The red could be made lighter by a further lightening of the grey base layer. At this stage I’m half way through the process.


Art and Symbolic Death

Some of the earliest images in which human features were represented whether sculptures or paintings are associated with funerary ritual. In this sense an imagined preservation of self and identity was contained within a portrait or a death mask. For example this sculpture is a 3 million year old pebble, Makapansgat cave, northern Transvaal, South Africa. 6cm across where one person may have fallen into this category.

 


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Later many oil painted portraits show the sitter contemplating their mortality (momento mori) for example when the  hand was placed touching a skull or in a less obvious painting by Hans Holbein titled The Ambassadors depicting the skull at the bottom of the composition.

As early as the Neolithic people remembered their relatives by taking death masks or making a sculpture using the skull as an armature and then moulding over it with clay-like substances shaping it into a portrait and then painting it delineating the eyes in particular.

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Ear Alive, 2014

Ear Alive, 2014

 

In this oil painting on gessoed paper I borrowed from the Neolithic idea but I reframe the context so that instead of actual death it is the symbolic death of the artist in the process of creation that is my context with the idea of passing through a ‘portal’ into a different sense of reality. In the images of the rising/setting sun and the ear I refer to how in actuality it is the sense of hearing that lasts longest as other faculties die. Transferred to the context of the painting process the stories in my mind about what I portrayed in an immediate situation slowly fade and gradually ‘die’. These stories in my mind about the visualisation and technique used to make up the image are the last things that I ‘hear’ before I move on. They must ‘die’. In a sense I am ‘blind’ or in ‘darkness’ as the ‘sounds of insight’ about the image go leaving me with a sense of loss.

Rudgley, Robert. 1998. Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age. London : Century


A Patricia Sykes Poem “On your suicide coast”, 2013 : Allegory and Art

On my Home Page I have removed the previous images ( etchings; intaglio, chine-colle and collage) about the forces of nature from the series titled:

Return to Sand and Water

and added more images from that series which are about the artist and a process of insight. The artist like a diver plunges into the ocean of the mind and brings up ‘pieces of insight’ not the spark of an idea but the process of creativity that brings that idea to fruition. Also included is a poem titled On your suicide coast, by Patricia Sykes, 2013

Behind the process of insight theme depicted in these etchings was a tragic story.

Usually at Point Roadknight my impetus derives from the forces of nature or the sheer beauty of sunrise and back-lit cloud formations however this time was different. It was an unexpected tragic situation that I thought I’d forgotten about but which just popped up unexpectedly. On the ocean side of Point Roadknight rocky ledges reach like outstretched hands into the ocean and it was at this location that a friend called me on her mobile to hurry and meet her. What started as an early morning walk for her ended in both of us identifying a washed up body lying face down on the sand.

The very sad thing for me was that he could not be stopped from this ‘final dive’ by the beauty of this place.

We both  found an outlet in poetry and art for the topic of suicide but not as a collaboration. I had not set out to do a series of etchings informed by the poem.

Earlier I had some old prints that I tore up and collaged into new compositions. The torn image was one of the Hanged Man and was about an art student’s Performance as this persona; painted in white chalk, hanging from rafters with musician also performing on the side of the hanging figure. I turned the image around so that it could be read as a diving figure, omitted the musicians and integrated the male figure into the land/seascape and then it unexpectedly reminded me of the suicide.

The figure reaching into the watery underworld has been used in art and literature frequently as an allegory about art and poetry for example the image of Narcissus by Caravaggio, 1600 becomes an allegory of painting.

NARCIS

We had been working separately at different times with this material and I had put mine away for several years until recently when I noticed that they seemed in sympathy with each other – simpatico.

This poem by Patricia Sykes is titled:

On your suicide coast

a holiday of bodies in languid sprawl

as if death is never a stalker

a strange aliveness

       their lassitude

      disturbed by no breath of yours

       though they loll among the gone of it

some scan the horizon, the sky,

less from anxiety than the habit

of eyes as wings, the shadows

      fleeting their faces are mostly sea birds

      a streak of sooty crests

      through bright indifferent sunlight

did you admire the tenacity of terns,

how they hug the shore like guards?

my eyes your surrogates fly

      to 96° west, the SOS marker

      that hovered above your suicide like a metal angel

      it hovers still, its yellow vigilance

defies rust, its loyalty to the drowned

and the bereft told in griefs of flowers

though you were a stranger here

      though the last spume to touch you

      slid off the marker’s face

      like incidental sea spray

the wheeling terns are not crying

an absolute goodbye

death is constant burial

      I give you back to water

      the way a parent trusts an infant to a cradle

      this time the surge and thrash

is gentler; strange fish nibble my fingers,

as if you left a hunger here, the ocean

though speaks of nothing but cold

 

Patricia Sykes, 2013

 

Poetics in Imagery

One way I depict the content of a story in my imagery is through a time honoured method that can be termed poetics, metaphor or allegory; that is using one story to tell another in the case of allegory.

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My Smartphone Fell into the Oil Paint 1, 2014, 48x34 cm, intaglio, oil, pastel and charcoal.


“Selfies” and the Smartphone

Selfies taken with a cellphone are self portraits in the sense that the genre is democratised as everyone can reproduce their own image. However there may be an interesting difference owing to the type of medium. Oil paintings on canvas are like permanent “precious objects”  where the artist depicts on its surface a contrived image that is placed in a staged background.

The image of the person portrayed very likely will ‘out-live’ the actual person therefore ensuring a type of immortality. Mosaics or stone masks are the  most permanent and durable of mediums.

How permanent then is a selfie? This image is shared often  as a candid shot but probably not intended to be permanent.

 

The Cellphone fell into the Oil Paint 1, 2014

My Smartphone fell into the Oil Paint 1, 2014

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The Cellphone Fell into the Oil Paint 2, 2014, 48x34 cm, intaglio, oil, pastel and charcoal on gessoed paper

My Smartphone Fell into the Oil Paint 2, 2014

 

 

On the other hand the selfie may be immortal as long as it can be retrieved from a Timeline.

These two small mixed media images make reference to the portable cellphone selfie and its perceived fleeting nature and cult of individuality. Some commentators describe it as a form of narcissism. Whether or not by cellphone or more traditional media I see types of self representation as evidence of a journey about questioning ideas around mortality and the Self.

From Rust to Rock 2014, 39x19 cm print, 50x35 cm paper, intaglio, frottage and collage


Abstract Landscape Etching (intaglio, chine-colle, collage) ‘Triptych’

 

The triptych has a history dating from the late Middle Ages to early Renaissance and was designed to tell a story. It consisted of a central panel with two smaller side panels placed behind the high altar. In an era before the invention of perspective this format was a device that illustrated the drama of the main protagonist, quite often a crucifixion scene, with supporting roles on the side panels .

Famous people and members of the aristocracy also found this form useful for secular story-telling, for example there is a triptych featuring a centrally placed Martin Luther accompanied by side panels that illustrated  his deeds; a type of curriculum vitae writ large. This type of portraiture was commissioned not only by aristocrats but members of the ‘middle class’.

By reading this abstracted landscape (which belongs to the series part of which is shown on my website Home Page titled And then the Ocean Rusted 2013-2014,) in a triptych format a viewer could detect an allusion to a type of geological narrative. In a way the central panel summed up the action on the ‘side panels’. It was all about rusty sediment.

The purchaser of these three prints decided to hang them together in ‘triptych’ format. I liked this arrangement. In comparison with the traditional triptych format the print on central panel is smaller than the prints on side panels. However the central panel/print although smaller attracts the eye first due to the intensity of colour and contrast in the composition, but also the larger surround of printmaking paper creates another contrast. The textures of chine-colle on rice paper and the frottage while enlarging both the panel/print images has a softening effect and gives the central image room to ‘breathe’.


Artwork underpaintings struggle stage

This is always the push and pull stage: erase, reintroduce line, change the meaning, get a bit precious, attack with turpentine rag and wipe off image. Although these are small studies measuring about 50×35 cm they often challenge me more than larger works.

The journey from inspiration to creation is always tricky. For instance I’m inspired by the idea that the viewer is not a distant observing  subject capturing an object in paint or any other medium. I try not to produce an aesthetic of possession or of total control. In a way I feel observed by the terrain/land/environment/geology/geomorphology through which I pass and that my creative process mirrors that of the earths’.

Ideas like tectonic plates  slide under and over each other, melt, coalesce into different thought patterns. Images and ideas can well up unexpectedly and fracture safe, formulaic and comfortable assumptions and techniques. For me it is like a mirroring of creativity and the processes can be convoluted, unexpected, annoying and frustrating as “failures” often hold the seeds of new ideas and point the way to new directions and paths for further exploration.

For example the last 2 images have been a source of frustration as I was trying to combine two different pictorial formats, that is, how cupules in rocks produced 50,000 years ago and used as depression into which eyes were painted could relate to our pictorial conventions. Neither the idea, composition or technique has been resolved and it requires attention but I feel it is part of something further down the track.

The source of this rock art eye imagery was included in a lecture by the Kimberley Foundation.


Etching and Collage about Sea Erosion

Sea Erosion Theme

This continuing theme expressed through etching and collage will replace the gouache and mixed media artwork about the topic on my Home Page. I wonder sometimes if the medium of etching, intaglio, drypoint on rice paper, handmade and printmaking paper seems a more urgent direct, stark way to represent this subject in comparison with oil and gouache painting where the element of colour tends to dominate. With colour taking a secondary place strong tonal contrast becomes the main game.

All these images are single, unique one off pieces of artwork. They are not part of an edition of prints. I enjoy playing with one etched plate and then combine the print with different media such as collage of hand made paper, chine-colle on rice paper, ink wash, pen and pencil drawing and also staples.

These artworks are part of a series titled Return to Sand and Water. 


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.


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Art techniques / different media

I selected these works on paper and large oil on board completed in 2010 as different versions of the same topic as the Point Roadknight influenced commission and its companion. The selections ( horizontal) are part of a series of artworks titled Return to Sand and Water. The different media also emphasised the processes of erosion at a special place called Point Roadknight.