On the Couch with Sanné Mestrom

Sanne Mestrom Arts Review On the CouchWho is Sanné Mestrom?
An artist. I have a sculptural practice which draws on twentieth century iconic Modernist works to explore the psychological, emotional and cultural significance attached to them. These days I work a lot with bronze & clay, creating large ceramic sculptures. I also work at a very large scale with cast concrete for permanent outdoor projects.

What would you do differently to what you do now?   
If I had a different pair of parents, and a different set of lungs, I would have loved to have been a country music singer. Unfortunately I can’t sing, so this poses a bit of a potential problem. After I finished my PhD in 2008 (Fine Art, RMIT) I felt pretty burnt out and was seriously considering walking away from art – I considered a number of other options, and even enrolled in a psychology degree, but before long I found myself drifting back into the world of art. It’s not just a thing we do, it’s a way of life – unfortunately, it’s undeniable! It seems I just can’t shake it.

Who inspires you and why?
In contemporary art, every Movement and every moment reflects on the one that came before – we’re always looking backward and forward simultaneously, while trying to embody the zeitgeist of the ‘now’. So as artists we’re always standing on the shoulders of giants and reaching outward. Some of the giants whose shoulders I stand upon include various historical canons, along with Picasso, of course, who shattered the glass ceiling of perception and representation in painting back at the turn of the last century. I’m equally inspired by many contemporary practices such as artist Tino Sehgal whose performative practice I stumbled upon by accident almost 10 years ago, which radically changed my understanding of what art could be, and the profound impact it could have – his work This Progress at the Guggenheim in New York reminded me that art is not just something to look at and think about, but to experience and live through.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I think art itself is a fairly noble occupation – we sacrifice most worldly comforts to spend our time creating things that at best make people think, and at worst make people happy.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I spend a lot of time in New Zealand – visiting family and old friends. Whenever I need a circuit breaker from the bustle of daily life, I duck over there for a few days. Sometimes, having a cuppa with my mum is all I need to re-centre myself.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
My entire family lives overseas (New Zealand, the Netherlands & further afield), and when they come to visit we promptly head out of town. I love travelling around regional Victoria and exploring places I haven’t visited yet – having lived in Gippsland for four years, and Castlemaine for two, I’ve travelled this state a great deal, and yet there is still so much to see! My favourite stretch is the Great Alpine Road, cutting through the Alpine National Park, which I’ve travelled many times – the views of the vast mountain ranges are breathtaking. I’ve camped in the snow and stayed in a number of the cosy lodges in Dinner Plain Village; there’s nothing like a roaring fire and a glass of red after a day in the freezing snow. There’s a number of gorgeous little townships on either side of Dinner Plain too: Omeo, Bright, Beechworth. It’s just such a wonderful little part of the world.

What are you currently reading?
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, 2000. Incredibly, this is the first Sedaris book I’ve read, and it more than lives up to the hype. I picked this up at the market the other day and have been in absolute stitches reading it – this book is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s essentially a misanthropic cluster of personal essays about poignant and humiliating events in Sedaris’ personal life. As it’s title suggests, in several instances it touches on language and speech, and as English was originally my second language I can identify with many of the mystifying and excruciating experiences that come with learning a new language you have been forcibly immersed in. I always love books in which language itself becomes a plaything.

What are you currently listening to?
My partner’s music, which is basically a lot louder than mine!

Happiness is?
Pottering in the garden on a Saturday afternoon – propagating, planting, potting & weeding, mowing, snipping, cutting, trimming. Followed by a ‘porchie’ with my partner in the late afternoon (a few lovely cool glasses of wine out on the porch), and then shifting to the studio in the evening to spend a few hours on whatever project I’m currently working on. And the thing that makes me happiest of all is knowing I’ve got the whole next day to do the exact same thing.

What does the future hold for you?
I’m working on a number of projects concurrently – I’m working towards a solo exhibition for 2017 (with my Sydney gallery Sullivan & Strumpf); a major public art commission; as well as a suite of works for various group exhibitions I’ve got coming up. Under my alias The Mechanics Institute (with art-partner Jamie Hall) I’m also currently working on a socially engaged project for the Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab (as part of Melbourne Festival). In the next six months I’m also hoping to squeeze in a few small art-trips to Hong Kong, Singapore, India and New Zealand. It’s a very busy time!

Sanné Mestrom with fellow artist Jamie Hall are The Mechanics Institute presenting the work, Trade School, 2016, as part of the Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab, titled What Happens Now? at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne until 23 October 2016. For more information, visit: www.bienniallab.com for details.

Image: Sanné Mestrom – photo by Kristoffer Paulsen