Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son Sanne Me­strom

Sanne Me­strom, Soft Kiss (2011). Col­lec­tion Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art. Pur­chased with funds pro­vided by the MCA Foun­da­tion, 2016. On dis­play in the ex­hi­bi­tion To­day To­mor­row Yes­ter­day at MCA, Syd­ney. Since the end of the 19th cen­tury, the kiss has been the sub­ject of nu­mer­ous mod­ernist art­works rang­ing from Au­guste Rodin’s sen­sual and il­licit em­brace, to Gus­tav Klimt’s golden ca­ress, to Roy Licht­en­stein’s pop smooch, and Banksy’s two po­lice­men kiss­ing, spray-painted on the wall of an English pub.

An­other fa­mous kiss was cre­ated by Con­stantin Bran­cusi, whose work is so de­sired that ear­lier this year one of his egg-shaped bronze sculp­tures caused a flurry of ex­cite­ment when it sold at auc­tion in New York for more than $US57 mil­lion ($72m).

Bran­cusi pro­duced nu­mer­ous ver­sions of his elo­quent kiss sculp­ture and now, more than 100 years on, it has been rein­ter­preted by Mel- bourne-based artist Sanne Me­strom. Her ver­sion, Soft Kiss, is on dis­play at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Syd­ney, in the ex­hi­bi­tion To­day To­mor­row Yes­ter­day.

Soft Kiss is based on a head­piece Me­strom found in a sec­ond-hand junk shop in Mel­bourne. “It re­ally cap­ti­vated me be­cause it re­minded me of a Bran­cusi head­piece and I love Bran­cusi’s sculp­tures,” she has said.

“I bought it and took it home be­cause of this loose link be­tween the highly revered, beau­ti­ful stone carv­ing by Bran­cusi, and this some­what tacky, kitsch and junky plas­ter re­pro­duc­tion of the orig­i­nal.”

Soft Kiss is more re­strained than Bran­cusi’s all-en­com­pass­ing kiss. In Soft Kiss con­tact is re­stricted to a slight touch of lips on cheek and there is a bar­rier be­tween the two heads. Also, rather than Bran­cusi’s use of stone, Soft Kiss con­sists of a smooth rubber cast that is in­ten­tion­ally left un­fin­ished so the seams pro­duced by the mould­ing process are clearly vis­i­ble.

Me­strom’s pro­duc­tion of an im­per­fect copy is a de­lib­er­ate ap­proach and she men­tions John Berger’s Ways of See­ing as an in­flu­ence.

For in­stance, when once asked why she was in­ter­ested in these iconic works, such as Bran­cusi’s kiss, she ex­plained: “I draw on 20th-cen­tury iconic mod­ernist works to ex­plore the psy­cho­log­i­cal, emo­tional and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance at­tached to them.

“I like that we ab­sorb all these mon­u­men­tal and sem­i­nal art­works through our life­time of look­ing at art­work,” she said. “We al­most ab­sorb these works un­con­sciously into our psy­che be­cause they are such big play­ers in my mind.

“I like draw­ing on the vibe of the orig­i­nal and that’s enough of a link for me to feel like I’m close to great­ness. And when I found this Bran­cusi-es­que work I thought, ‘I love it’, and it is that slid­ing away from the orig­i­nal that I like.”

MCA se­nior cu­ra­tor Natasha Bul­lock says Me­strom os­ten­si­bly makes art about art from a fem­i­nist and con­tem­po­rary per­spec­tive by tak­ing a work such as Bran­cusi’s The Kiss and giv­ing it a dif­fer­ent sen­si­bil­ity.

“Bran­cusi made a work where two ab­stract forms were lean­ing in to­wards each other but for Soft Kiss it is made out of plas­ter and rubber. It is not fin­ished, it is not per­fect, it is ac­tu­ally messy,” Bul­lock says. “You can see the lines around where the sculp­ture is made.”

Bul­lock says she “fell in love with this work” the first time she saw it. “I love that it is called Soft Kiss as there is the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the very soft heads touch­ing against this raw me­tal base.

“What I also love about this work is this beau­ti­ful sense of in­ti­macy. She has cho­sen these very ephemeral ma­te­ri­als that might break down over time. So, it is not about so­lid­ity, it is about some­thing pass­ing through time, which I think is what love is any­way.”

is also show­ing new work in Cor­rec­tions at Sul­li­van+Strumpf gallery, Syd­ney, un­til Septem­ber 9.

Urethane rubber, found ob­ject, tim­ber, me­tal; 151cm x 60cm x 70cm

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