Sunday, 1 August 2010


“The trouble about man is twofold.  He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple.” - Rebecca West

Last time I was in Brisbane I caught the exhibition of Ron Mueck’s sculptures. Mueck (born 1958) is an Australian who works in the UK and creates hyperrealistic sculpture using modern materials. He started as a puppeteer and model maker for television and films, his work for the film “Labyrinth” being the most notable. He has had no formal art training and his sculptures grew out of his work in film.

Mueck’s sculptures are hard to ignore. The scale ranges from the gigantic to the pygmy size, but life-sized figures are notably absent. The sculptor says: “I never made life-size figures because it never seemed to be interesting. We meet life-size people every day.” The technique he uses relies on chicken wire armatures covered in plaster and clay, over which are painted layers of coloured polyester resin. He also uses silicone, real and artificial hair and fur. Hairs, nails and other details are then added to give an amazingly realistic appearance to the figures.

Looking at a Mueck sculpture one is firstly awed by the sheer scale of the enormous figures, or intrigued by the amazing detail of the small figures. Secondly, there is an element of confrontation – you have to make your mind up about them very quickly. Most people like them or hate them immediately. Many people find the sculptures threatening or creepy. I did not dislike them, but would not go out of my way to acquire one, if I had the money to do so.

There is a message inherent in sculpture such as Mueck’s. The greatly realistic appearance of the sculptures forces the observer to develop a “relationship” with the figures, although their disparity in scale creates a tension and a belligerence that demands attention. The nakedness of many of his sculptures is also something that shocks many viewers and the ordinary appearance of real people that mirrors most of us has an effect that invites the viewer’s self examination and introspection.

Mueck’s art is approachable, confronting, hard to ignore. It shocks many and invites comparisons. It is the art of controversy and popularity, easily absorbed into mass culture and marketability. However, it does ask some probing questions, the most important one that it generated for me being: “What does it mean to be human?”

1 comment:

  1. It really does look quite amazing! The detail and life-like appearance are unbelievable. I can only imagine how you must have felt seeing it lifesize.