Known for voluptuous sculptures of the female body that are a nod to Henry Moore and the Modernists, Sanné Mestrom defies their single-minded gaze by creating nudes that draw audiences to not simply look but to interact with them, through their playfulness, practicality, and warmth.
Mestrom’s sculpture, The Offering (Nyotaimori Reclining Nude) 2022, embodies the core of her research, which seeks to incorporate ‘play’ into a socially engaged practice. Mestrom’s current research investigates ways that art in public places can become critically integrated, inclusive, and create interactive spaces.
Although brutalist in appearance, the motherly figure with its horizontal orientation, draws audiences in and invites them to touch, sit at and sit on. In doing so, Mestrom rewrites current definitions of ‘play’ as relating to the physical and experiential conditions of ‘place’. Creating a sculpture that responds to the audience’s movement through it and interaction with it, softens the separation of art and everyday life; it is through this ‘softness’ that playable art has the potential to open up a space to escape pre-determined ideas.
For me, the reclining nude body, that’s a gift. She’s not submissive, she’s not being objectified by men. She’s sharing herself with women, with children, with partners, with lovers – she’s giving and hopefully being given to.
Mestrom’s work offers a new way to experience art; a relationship is created between the viewer and the artwork; it moves us from simple voyeur to sitter to become part of the artwork. It requires the day-to-day lived experience and presence of the viewer to communicate with the sculpture, to alter their preconceived ideas of what it should be, and to engage in a physical way.
Mestrom, a senior lecturer and practice-led research at Sydney College of the Arts has work held by the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artbank, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Shepparton Art Museum, and private collections internationally. She is currently the recipient of an Australia Research Council funding scheme and has been both recipient and finalist of numerous awards, grants and prizes.
Main Image: The Offering (Nyotaimori Reclining Nude) 2022 with artist Sanné Mestrom
Photography: Mark Pokorny