Tackling traditional themes such as self-portraiture or the age-old question of verisimilitude in art, Mueck applies skills more usually associated with theatrical or cinematic special effects, to engender a personal understanding of the art object. – Tate
In our contextual studies session this week, we discussed the artist Ron Mueck. Mueck creates these incredible hyper-realistic sculptures in a variety of sizes. He exaggerates so that nothing he creates is the normal size of the subject he is working from. His career began spending 20 years working in Australian and British advertising, making mannequins that he would eventually adapt for his sculptural process. The work that put him onto the artistic radar was Dead Dad (1997) a sculpture, made from memory, of his dead father in half life-size. It was unnerving, and Mueck said “the miniaturised representation proved a more emotionally involving depiction of death by compelling the beholder to ‘cradle’ the corpse visually”. Mueck usually sculpts in clay, makes a plaster mould around it and finally replaces the clay with a mixture of fibreglass, silicone and resin.
He clearly has a liking for detail and accuracy. Every hair is stranded individually; each freckle and mark on the skin is hand painted. The work is extremely intricate yet overwhelming which makes how very real the sculptures are, almost frightening. I enjoy how he messes around with scale to make the work more obscure and interesting. It makes you look at things differently and observe the human figure in a much more full-on way; you connect with the figures through the depth of the emotion in their faces and the scars, that have become a permanent reminder, on their skin.
I’m particularly fond of the female figure with her baby, carrying bright orange Sainsbury’s shopping bags. You learn so much about her from the very realistic expression on her face; worry, stress and exhaustion consume her and her body. Even the fact that she is wearing a large coat plays to these emotions. It promotes a feeling of self-conciousness and the need to take shelter. It turns a common and normal everyday scene into something we want to observe in more detail. There is a sense of helplessness that surrounds her, which her size encourages, as it makes people look down on her and pity her even further.
The large scale pieces are extraordinary. They are extremely powerful and evoke an unsettled feeling due to his distortion of reality. He magnifies real life into something magical and almost mythical. They fill a room with a life that visitors marvel at, but also cower away from, because of their colossal size and how they often, in a way, mirror ourselves. This is particularly seen in the piece of the worried looking woman lying in bed. This is a position we may have been in ourselves; concerned and torn. It is so real and common yet he turns it into something curious and unusual. Furthermore, seeing such a strained and sensitive face so closely evokes sympathy for the woman.
Ron Mueck is clearly an expect in his field. The intensity and intricacy of his work makes it incredibly impressive and fascinating. I hope to one day get to see some of his pieces in the flesh!
I do not own any of the images above.