Estella Castle’s painting practice appears to be that of the conventional European portraitist. It is not. The paintings have all the hallmarks of the portrait genre with their isolation of the figure in a neutral setting, the faithfully represented of physical characteristics, the attention to gesture, and the way all these elements can be combined to suggest personality and emotion.
Castle’s works appear to function as if they are an exploration to represent a psychological truth of the sitter. For example, she uses conventions of portraiture where gesture will seek to reveal the sitter’s subconscious, emotional states and true self.
Castle is indeed interested in these ideas, but she turns the usual process on its head in such a way that while we may feel we are presented with authentic emotions and psychological states, these are actually derived from fictive and imaginary sitters.
Castle’s sitters are characters drawn from romantic fiction, because she doesn’t make portraits of actual subjects. Firstly, a character is chosen from a romantic fiction text that has been made into a film. The character is recreated, through the use of a model and costumes, as he or she has been depicted in the film and then photographed. The third incarnation of the character is a translation of the photograph into a painting.
As she paints from her photographs, the art works become the penultimate step in the re-fabrication of the fictional character’s state of mind or heart. The final step in this upside-down portraiture is our own, the viewers’, as we intuit and relate to the figure’s inner and expressive qualities, and perhaps we do so without wondering if the sitter even has a name.
Estella Castle was born in New Zealand and currently lives and works in London, UK, where she is studying a Masters of Fine Art at City & Guilds of London Art School. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts from Auckland University of Technology (2010); a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Auckland University of Technology (2006); and a Certificate of Art and Design from Whitecliffe School of Art and Design (2003). Castle won the Takapuna Art Supplies Figurative Painting Award (2010); the Studio Art Supplies Painting Award (2009); and the Artists Alliance Award (2006).