'Acclimatise' / Pat Casten
Each year, layers upon layers of topsoil thaw across the Himalayas, making their way down through the region’s vast waterways that nourish entire countries downstream. Each time this cycle repeats, animals and the occasional hiker are presented with a mountain that reveals new layers that may have frozen decades, or centuries before. Acclimatisation is, in its own way, Casten’s encapsulation of this process in her own life. Relationships fray. Contexts change. Friendships wear. But nevertheless, we persist. This series is a story of Casten’s adaptation to life’s new layers, one step at a time.
Melbourne-based framing and furniture company, Heimur, is collaborating with photographer, Pat Casten, for a series of frames for her upcoming exhibition. The exhibition, titled Acclimatise, explores Casten’s series of photographs taken in Nepal, Cambodia and Victoria. The exhibition starts on Friday 6th September 2019 from 6pm at No Vacancy Gallery & Cafe in Melbourne CBD.
The 13 picture series portrays Casten’s journey in the Himalayas and the topsoil thaw across the mountains. Acclimatise is a story of physical and mental adaptation to life’s new layers, shot between 2014-2017 across Cambodia, Nepal and Victoria.
The Heimur frames are made of American oak timber. The frame profile is 12 degrees outwards from a regular frame, like a frustum if you are looking at the work top down. The glass and artwork are separated by a small oak spacer.
Luke Van Aurich, one of Heimur’s co-founders, says: “This is the artist series we had been working on since late last year before Pat had to work abroad for awhile, however the planets have aligned and we are all in the same place at the same time.”
The works will be available for purchase on the night.
Date: Friday 6th September 2019 Time: 6-9pm Address: No Vacancy Cafe & Gallery, 34-40 Jane Bell Lane, Melbourne.
Hello! Firstly thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I guess the first question that comes to mind is what made you want to collaborate with the furniture company Heimur?
I’ve known Nathan and Luke from Heimur for a long time, and have watched Heimur grown from the ground up. Their hard work, determination and innovation has been a constant inspiration for me. It was important to collaborate with a local Melbourne business, who is supportive of emerging artists that I could trust and have a fun time with!
What has the collaboration consisted in?
Heimur helped me through the entire creative process of creating this series. They curated the final images, created the frames, helped me find a space to exhibit my work and pushed me to think about my work in a critical manner. We communicated regularly through this process, and they ensured to consider my creative input with all decisions.
How do you go about collaborations (in terms of picking the people you work with and coming up with a mutually-satisfying creative vision)?
I’m pretty picky with the types of people I work with. The main prerequisite is that we get along as people, our values align and that you have an open mind. If these 3 factors are ticked, then the mutually-satisfying creative vision naturally comes later.
Are you picky about how your images are framed?
Absolutely. In a series like, Acclimatise, there’s a huge difficulty in portraying such vast landscapes, and fond memories to match how they looked in reality, and how they made me feel. By framing my work, it allows to me to get closer to matching that reality — and adds an element for interpretation from the viewer - so this needs to be purposefully considered. This way, the image can come to life.
So the exhibition Acclimatise is a story about physical and mental adaption to life’s new layers, captured during your journey in the Himalaya mountains. Is there a particular backstory to the inspiration for the series?
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit was a very deliberate solo journey I embarked on, purely with the intention to understand and learn how to be independent—something I was really struggling with at the time. Right before I went on the 15-Day hike, I’d discovered my mum had just had a stroke, so my headspace was in a really dark place. The hike was the most challenging experience I’ve ever had, physically and mentally, I was literally begging my mind, feet, and heart to keep up and was very close to quitting —
“Move your left foot, Now move your right, Now breathe, And repeat.”
As I passed the peak, I experienced an insane, inexplainable feeling of euphoria and a true feeling of accomplishment and self-love. It felt as though if I could push my body to do crazy things, (like acclimatise to 5000m above sea level), then I could also force my emotional being to push past too.
Acclimatise is a representation of emotional healing, through a physical metaphor.
The series was shot between 2014 and 2017. Does working over longer timeframes suit your creative process?
Reviewing images over longer time-spans allows me to reflect on ongoing themes within my life in a way which is more critical and less reactive. It helps me understand later why I took a certain photograph, which I may not have understood at the present time.
Particularly, in “acclimatise” I explore my past relationships, broken memories and tell my journey in hindsight.
Do you have a work in the series you feel particularly proud of?
The work titled ‘beautiful’ was on the last day of the 15-day hike. It’s an image of trash, but it looked so beautiful. This image encompasses the notion of taking something ugly, and finding acceptance and beauty in it.
Do you have anything else planned for the future?
I’m currently working on a portrait series from the suburb I grew up in. I’m exploring the shared identity confusion when growing up in an immigrant, catholic, lower socioeconomic and non-creative community, and desperately wanting to get out — but then finding yourself in an all-white, high-class Australian society.
Heimur is a Melbourne-based, handmade furniture and framing outfit dedicated to creating modern furniture that meets modern demands. Established in 2015 by Nathan Lawrence and Luke Van Aurich originally as a passion project, Heimur has now grown to a nationally-renowned label fuelled by the tenet that all furniture should be high-quality, ethical, practical and available for all. https://heimur.com.au
Pat Casten is a Melbourne-based documentary photographer. She places an emphasis on intimate, revealing portraits that sit at the intersection between youth and adulthood. Her work has been featured in VICE, i-D, Acclaim, among others. https://www.patriciacasten.com/
Interview: Clementine Girard-Foley
Cover image: artist portrait of Pat Casten, captured by Luke Van Aurich