Elaine d'Esterre

Feminist Visual Artist – Paintings, Mixed Media and Etchings

Large Oil and Mixed Media – more of Mungo (cont.)


I waited for 24 hours and gradually peeled off  glad wrap (cling wrap) in two stages, the first being moister than the second and consequently edges were less defined while the rest were drier and crisper. The image looked better in horizontal format at this stage but that could change.

‘Space and Place : Elaine d’Esterre & Nicky Perkin’ (continued)

The exhibition opening was successful with sales and inquiring comments, a poetry reading by Patricia Sykes who composed a poem titled Desert Poet in response to one of my paintings and much discussion about ideas informing our work and the way that Curator Sally Groom created a visual dialogue between the images.


Elemental Landforms at Lake Mungo

A larger mixed media about Lake Mungo consists of frottage taken from different surface areas. I folded a large sheet printmaking paper into three sections aiming to capture samples of the various types of terrain. Graphite was used to take a rubbing from a stone (alluding to the Gol Gol formation on top of which the lunette built) seen in the top right of the composition. The middle section consists of traces of clay and sand (alluding to how the lunette built up into dunes) and the top left section now almost obscured retained a stain as this section of the paper buried into darkened places of the dune, where moisture caused possibly by decaying remnant vegetation,  left an imprint.

Once again, I turned the composition up side down where it appeared to read better for me.

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“Littoral” Blurb

Some artists say that paintings ‘speak’ for themselves but, while I partly agree, I feel that information about artwork increases viewers’ enjoyment and curiosity. I don’t think I’m illustrating words verbatim but I do get inspiration from written source material as well as from other inputs- observation, memory, dreams and many emotions. I like to read blurbs when I look at the work of other artists as it increases my sense of engagement. However my first engagement with another artwork is through its visual impact and my emotional reaction, then I search for the words.

Chatting with the artist- always the way to go. Saturday March 5 from 4- 6pm at:









LITTORAL – Point Roadknight




Particular rock formations on the bay side of this small promontory have resulted in the action of mineralization and seepage over thousands of years. This calcified a system of tree roots that reach through an extensive dune. In this series of oil paintings, mixed media and etchings, my particular focus is on Port Roadknight’s seashore and landforms, an intertidal zone known as “littoral”.





Firstly at this site I recorded by sketch and photograph the changes driven by the forces of erosion. While charting these images over a five-year period I felt a sense of quiet desperation, loss and distress at the evident effects of climate change. The slow disintegration of this intriguing place expresses itself in the oil painting, Point Roadknight Erosion, 2007.



Point Roadknight Erosion, 2007, 92x180 cm, oil on canvas

Point Roadknight Erosion, 2007, oil on canvas






I then focused on a feature within the cliff face, often referred to by locals as “the petrified forest”. Rows of trunk-like ‘columns’, now almost lost to the sea, resemble ancient ruins. Colonnades, porticos and an entablature appear to emanate from the cliff face. An orange layer of horizontal rock runs along its length above the ‘columns’, a vibrant essence I set out to capture in Entablature, 2012.

Like an Entablature, 2012

Entablature, 2012, gouache 52×73 cm








Resurface 2, 2010 and Sand Cradle, 2010 are an allegory, representing how a diver physically and an artist mentally descend into places real and imagined and resurface with treasure or inspiration.


The heavily textured elements in Petrified Forest 1 and 2, The Sun Rises and Sand Reflection, are an example of my handmade paper, which I made from marram grass picked from local sand dunes. I combined these with frottage, using graphite to make rubbings from broken ‘columns’ scattered along the intertidal zone.


In Aglow and Column Shadow, I aimed at how mid-winter sunlight at dawn falls on to the chalky cliff face, making it appear to glow before casting deep shadows on it. As the sun continues to rise this contrast defines the many imaginary shapes that emerge from this section of shoreline.


All welcome to come and chat about the work and that of other artists also exhibiting at 69 Smith Street Gallery in Fitzroy.




“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


LANDforms Finishing Touches

The last painting, part of my exhibition titled LANDforms  to be shown at 69 Smith Street Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne was completed yesterday, apart from a few minor touches, after so many changes.

I began with a frottage on paper taken from the site in 2001 and incorporated it into a composition on canvas in my studio as a way to stay connected to this place.

Coming from a comfortable coastal village to camping in a remote desolation, from air heavy with ions to pink metallic like aluminium shiny air (words failing), from sparking cold ocean to dry creek beds. yellow dunes to burnt sienna plus pink sand dunes, I found it difficult to enter this landscape.

Working through this composition was quite frustrating as I kept changing the format. Part of the reason for this was the way in which I tried to combine a sense of vast distance and mirage, where time and space seem stretched, with a more intimate focus. The close focus on a dune and its formation demanded manipulation of the composition to integrate and combine contrasting time frames into the composition.

The stretched time, just finding an elusive distant horizon, the slow walking pace caused by desert sand and lack of obvious features in which to gauge position and space, forced my eye to search for a way to place myself on the land in order to find and image a viewing space. This mental space had aspects of observation as well as internal imaginings. A heightened alertness, ears casting about for familiar sounds was also a type of invisible safety boundary around myself, quite an unsettling, elemental primal feeling.

The dune looked almost personified in an early rendition, looking out at the viewer through a large eye-shape before I changed it back to horizontal landscape format where the frottage marks partly indicated the way the dune formed. My statement and focus became the parts of dune shaped by water and coloured by red soil but the up close look detracted from the sense of vastness in which the dotted appearance of dunes almost seemed to float in a heat haze.

Back to vertical and then focus on red drift of soil from the nearby hills and a small allusion to precipitation. When I adopted oil washes in many layers that concealed and revealed different parts of the eroded dune I felt that I was getting somewhere. Atmospheric perspective, a flattened sense of space and depictions of gouged and layered sand all came together but also retained their specific qualities.

It has taken me ages from a 2001 frottage on paper to the 2014 and 2015 paintings and collage etchings to come to terms with this haunted place. A palimpsest-like place with a Wabi Sabi type of aesthetic, washed and eroded away, an archaeology that discovered traces of the original inhabitants who lived at least 40,000 years ago. To modern eyes it is hard to see the ‘map’ beneath the surface without samples of ancient tools from archaeological digs and fossilised footprints.

Then there is a memento mori aspect to Mungo when I consider the Mungo time frame and that of a life time. As well as witnessing what a changing climate can do to a place that was once inland seafarers’ home country and now is arid desert country. When I first tried to enter this country, firstly in 1989 and then 2001, the emotion I felt on both occasions is what I call a memento mori moment. Not an awe-filled sensation like the sublime of the Romantics or something too somber like pondering mortality but a freedom, an insignificance and at the same time being very alive.

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Mungo Identity


When I visited this site, photographing, sketching it, taking rubbings and earth stains it was challenging on many levels. Firstly there were the heat, dust, flies and bees and wind storms. Finding shelter in a flimsy tent in this temporarily harsh environment was inadequate and it felt as though we may have been enveloped by the sand and blown away.

Secondly, the history, archaeological discoveries and how this place was found, revealed by erosion makes it a place of significance. Sheep grazing removed vegetation that exposed the lunette and eventually the site of where Mungo Woman was unearthed ( 40,000 + years).

At the time of each arrival, although ten years apart, I felt a sense of unease and fragmented as though I was viewing this sand dune lunette from an upside down position and  I hoped that on my second time around that my feelings would be together, but no such luck and the painting process attests to my efforts trying to get my head around it. I started it at the beginning of last year and threw the painting aside many times.

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Anyway when I arrived at the image of the solitary up right figure I think it was about how I could depict the way in which the sense of space differed to that of other similar fairly remote locations. A bit of a puzzle because I had lived in outback Central Queensland and this place was similar but much further south. It was as though the element of space or atmosphere was like a solid constricting presence. The exact opposite of how I thought I would feel.

Photographs of Mungo National Park