Esther Erlich featured by John McDonald in Good Weekend

Esther Erlich featured by John McDonald in Good Weekend – Friday, 29 June 2018

Esther Erlich featured by John McDonald in Good Weekend

Esther Erlich, Epic, 2012 – 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 137 cm by 183 cm


Read the article below or on the Good Weekend.


Art: Esther Erlich

By John McDonald

Lives: Brighton East, Melbourne. Age: 62. Represented by: Fox Galleries, Melbourne; Frances Keevil Gallery, Sydney.

Her thing.

Dramatic female portraits and figure studies with expressionist overtones.

Our take.

Erlich is a dedicated painter of figures and portraits who inhabits that uneasy territory between mainstream and avant garde, which means she can produce likenesses which are both realistic and highly stylised. This tends to polarise audiences, as it did with Viennese artists such as Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, who are obvious influences. She also cites an admiration for the German modernist Jeanne Mammen.

Erlich has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize and the Portia Geach Memorial Award on numerous occasions. In 1998, Erlich won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize for a picture of long-distance runner Steve Moneghetti.

The Female Gaze, her show at Melbourne’s Fox Galleries, consists of paintings and large-scale drawings in which a diverse cast of women stare at us provocatively, as if daring viewers to look away. When Manet had his female subjects stare directly out of the canvas, they were generally assumed to be harlots. Erlich plays on this association in paintings such as Epic and Ladies , in which heavily made-up groups of women flaunt their sexual attractiveness in a most self-confident manner. It’s up to the viewer to decide whether this is meant to be alluring or confronting.

Can I afford it?

For $1650 you could pick up one of three small faces measuring 36cm x 36cm, listed in the catalogue as Untitled 1 , 2 and 3 . These acrylic paintings feature three young women peering from a saturated screen of red that reveals only a glimpse of eyes, nose and lips, and the occasional pearl earring.

The most expensive piece is Epic (137cm x 183cm), pictured, at $18,000. This seems eminently reasonable considering the artist worked on the painting for five years, and it is still well under Erlich’s record price of $30,000 (although her Doug Moran Portrait Prize winner was automatically acquired for the prize money of $100,000).

Where can I have a squiz?

Fox Galleries, 63 Wellington Streetreet, Collingwood, until July 14;