“Australian sculptor. Mueck spent 20 years in Australian and British television and advertising, where he was already making the mannequins that he later adapted to sculptural purposes. Mueck took part in the exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy in 1997 with mixed media sculpture Dead Dad (1996–7; London, Saatchi Gal.), an unsettling illusionistic rendition of his own deceased father, half life-size. Made from memory, the sculpture became as much the focus for a strong emotional involvement as it was a mere object treated with Mueck’s rigorous eye for detail. As the artist explained, the miniaturized representation proved a more emotionally involving depiction of death by compelling the beholder to ‘cradle’ the corpse visually. Mueck sculpts in clay, makes a plaster mold around it and finally replaces the clay with a mixture of fibreglass, silicone and resin; the technical skill involved has often been foregrounded by critics to the detriment of its content. Such psychological density was evident in Ghost (h. 2.02 m, 1998; London, Tate), a gigantic representation of an awkward teenage girl wearing a bathing suit and averting her gaze from the viewer. Such plays on scale are integral to the powerful effects of Mueck’s figures. A colossal figure commissioned for the Millenium Dome in London in 2000 reiterated a similar issue. 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 Gallery
“As a child Mueck often made toys, and as a young man he created puppets for children’s television programs, including Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.”
“Comfort and discomfort are pretty broad terms. Each viewer will arrive with their own comfort/discomfort levels. The artist makes something to react to…the viewer reacts”.
“I spend quite a while making paper mockups / sketches of varying sizes before I commit myself to sculpting the clay. I can still change it all right up to the moulding stage, by which time I know if the size is working for me or not.”
“The space has a huge effect on the works. With sculpture the space creates a tangible context. You can’t really predict it; you have to work with it. There are always surprises”.
“The pieces evolve. I might see something that gets the ball rolling—an image, a scene in the street, a suggestive pose. I might start with a space and wonder what could work within it. But those are just the starting points that a piece will develop from.”
“The choices I make as the work develops are no doubt informed by my “background” but I’m not sure I could identify a particularly Australian quality.”
sourced @ The Brooklyn Museum
”Mueck’s art offers us a glimpse of something ‘real,’ but not life-size, and because his subjects are isolated, we focus in on them in a new way. Through his creative process, the artist makes a poignant and psychologically charged portrait. His work is powerful; its strange believability compels us to look closely.” Andrea Karnes, Curator @ The Modern Museum
“Perhaps one should not hold Mueck in suspicion for his background in the movie industry, as it has left him well equipped to make a mark on a contemporary art scene desperate to keep pushing back boundaries that barely exist”. (Sydney Morning Herald , 27 February 2010) (1)
” It has been a long time since artists were comfortable with the Renaissance idea of ‘man as the measure of all things’. Mueck has shown that by the manipulation of scale and an exacting realism, viewers may be confronted with the complexities of their own relationship to other human beings. These large or small bodies are mirrors of psychological states: they make us conscious of our own insignificance or the way we tend to view others as mere bit players in the all-encompassing drama of our subjectivity. Even the most insensitive of viewers must feel that these sculptures open a small chink in the armour of the ego.” John McDonald (1)
- Reclusive, few have access to his work practice
- Trained extensively in model making
- Worked in TV, Film and Advertising
- Made models as a boy
- Hyper – realist
- Uses traditional techniques with modern and natural materials (clay, plaster, fibreglass, silicone, resin, human hair etc).
- Involves collaborative practice.
- That Mueck uses scale to challenge audience perception is a popular notion, however; Mueck says “”I change the scale intuitively, really avoiding life-size because it’s ordinary. There’s no math involved; I usually do a sketch on paper and if it looks good to me, then I use that scale for the actual piece. The shift in scale draws you in and in some ways engages you at a different level.”
- Re-contextualises social narrative.
- Confronts Cartesian consciousness.
- May encounter the works in permanent collections or curated exhibitions.
- May encounter reproductions of the work in publications or on the web. (image search or Mueck’s Pinterest)
- Are drawn into a unique perceptual experience.
- Are able to access other levels of content and context via documentaries on Mueck’s practice.
- “Born in Australia in 1958, Ron Mueck began his career making puppets for children’s television programs. After a sojourn in Los Angeles in 1986, he settled down in London, where he again worked in special effects for television and then for cinema. In 1990 he set up his own business, manufacturing models for the European advertising industry. Entirely devoted to his artistic vocation since 1996, Mueck has participated in a number of collective shows. After being included in the influential exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection in 1997, he was invited in 2000 by the London National Gallery to be Associate Artist for two years, leading to an exhibition that traveled from London to Sydney and Harlem. The immense sculpture Boy was presented at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington gave Mueck a solo show in 2002, as did the Nationalgalerie in Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, in 2003″. @ The Modern
- Subjects are often friends or relatives.
- Often draws inspiration from the ‘everyday’
- Prior to the ‘Sensation Exhibition’ at the London Royal Academy of Arts, Mueck had only one previous exhibition at Hayward Gallery.
- Produced all the models and props for movies such as “The Labyrinth”
- Works in permanent collections at
- Mueck’s inclusion in the StatuePhilia exhibition at the British Museum (2008-2009) is evidence of his status as a major artist, which affects the way in which his work is presented in museums and galleries, determines the cultural status of those institutions (Mueck’s work is shown in National Galleries, not local shopfronts), and so inevitably influences the way in which both critics and the general public approach the work.
- View Mueck’s full biography here
Subjective / Audience
- Audience interprets work based on the conventions of the human form
- Response is conditioned by dislocation of apparent reality vs scale
- Psychological responses
- Scale of work disrupts surface realism (1)
- Often overpowered by the desire to touch the works to verify their reality (1)
- Requires the audience to recalibrate their spatial awareness (1)
- Audiences often report an increased sense of bodily self awareness (1)
Subjective / Artist
- Works reflect everyday experience.
- Ideas derived from explorations of the imagination or associations
- Truth to form but not to scale
- Concerned with surface treatment that mimics reality
- Adheres to formalist/traditional notions of sculpture
- These are peopled by the everyday, old men and women, clothed and unclothed, disenfranchised or alienated youth, pregnant women, women giving birth, children, infants etc, represented on a scale that takes the viewer outside the confines of their daily experience.
- How is our view of the work socially / culturally conditioned?
- What role does the media play in conditioning responses to the work?
- But does it float? A popular question during the notorious ‘Witch Hunt’s’ and ‘Inquisition”. What’s the relevance here? Not everything fits into this Board determined ‘frame’, neither can you make it. Mueck’s work neither appropriates, parodies, quotes or displays any of the other derivatives associated with Postmodernism. His earliest works were made in the mid ’90’s, at a time when Post Modernity was breathing its last.
- Mueck’s practice is rooted in tradition. Despite the use of fibreglass, silicone and resins etc, which, whilst being material considerations that facilitate his painstaking attention to detail, its his surface treatment; which derives its strength from a deep understanding of traditional painting technique and his ability to bring realism to form that set his works apart.
- Postmodernism as a stream of art practice was embraced by some but not all practitioners of the time. Mueck’s work arguably slides comfortably into this context. You could possibly construct a scenario and argue for it but my advice would be to refrain from referencing Mueck in a Postmodern context unless you’re exploring readings of the work through a ‘structuralist’ or ‘semiotic’ lens; and to this end, the decoding of Mueck’s work within the sign system of the ‘gallery’ and ‘Euclidean space’ is relevant.
- Faces, Bodies and Flesh
- Ron Mueck’s Solo Exhibition at Foundation Cartier
- Paris set to fete hyper realist artist
- Ron Mueck’s gentle giants
- Portraiture in the flesh
- Ron Mueck Q&A
(1) Adapted from “Sculpture as a deconstruction” Ann Cranny-Francis