Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

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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Lake Mungo and Poet

This painting has been through the wringer. I was trying to capture an image of a poet or artist entering the landscape as it seeps into the mind and the person ‘becomes’ the landscape and the image of the person fuses with aspects of it in this case, one of the dunes at Lake Mungo. In my first rendition in moody grey green I returned to an older type of imagery of the visionary figure and interior, a total side track that I dropped and began the thought process. The harsh outdoors, the heat and desiccated landscape and its effect on the artist/poet took over again. changing from artist and brush and light bulb to artist near dune with sun replacing the light bulb image. The dune image also obscured the light bulb.

Reversal didn’t work and I felt that the weight and volume of the head had been lost in colour and brush strokes. I dithered and fiddled with the image of the ear representing ‘history’ and ‘information’ as it changed from an obscured shape to a clearer representation. Unhappy with head in box imagery and as time went by the painting changed  from that of artist into the representation of the poet with a vast blue sky background.

The meaning also evolved when I painted the head in mental constraints represented by lines of a box shape outside of which an ear reached to earth and so I titled the composition at that stage, The Sound of History at Mungo, 2015. Not happy and time passed again.

I decided to cover up what was looking like fussiness. The head solid but part of the forehead became dune shaped and also the dune image reflected onto the black spectacle lens. I repeated the image of the dune shape near the mouth as a way to represent the poet’s words. Then it seemed that the basic shape of the dune being a triangle was shared like the letter “A” placed on the left of the composition; the experience of the flesh merging with the matter of the landscape created the symbol. The title now is The Flesh Created the Symbol at Lake Mungo, 2016

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“Passage of Time at Lake Mungo”

The painting below happened quickly, almost too quickly because I didn’t record its early stages. They began as a torn up ghost print from my failed attempts at viscosity printing. However I retained this piece of pink and blue texture on BFK Rives.

The first layer consisted of the torn shred placed in the bottom left of the composition. Months later I had left over greenish turps and in an absent minded moment I poured it onto the canvas surrounding the BFK Rives ghost viscosity texture. Later I purposely applied a few dark areas and lines, an orange strip and I enlarged the pink texture into a dune shape which I felt alluded to Mungo-ish colour of this arid region.

I recalled that Lake Mungo originally until 24,000 years ago had been a thriving water-filled habitat that supported Indigenous civilisation. So I mixed together several types and consistencies of blue and let the paint flow randomly across the canvas.

White lines indicate direction of water flow and time line. I partly obscured the blue shape with misty blues, re-established the blue but in an atmospheric haze of ‘distant time’.  I dribbled a white wash over the white line and dripped blue washy blobs into it. The idea was to represent a transition through time from the blue water of abundant life to pinks and orange representing gradual desertification.

Time's Passage at Lake Mungo


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……….



Figure at Mungo (last stage)

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More incomplete painting as I tried to capture the feeling of frustration as I depicted myself trying to ‘fit into the landscape’  at Lake Mungo. Earlier stages during the painting process were about my sense of feeling upside – down in a very harsh environment exacerbated by the severe drought across the country at the beginning of the century in Australia.

It didn’t work and after several efforts I reverted to depiction of frustration where I tried to paint in heat, dust and flies and bees. As a result I could appreciate the frottage technique of taking rubbings from different parts of the dried lake and clay surface. Although I dont feel I can contribute more at present the  temporary title Paint and Elements will do for the moment until something comes up. But may be not because it does looks like an artist in a whirlwind. Perhaps it should be Paint and Mungo Whirlwind,– a bit happier now.