For a reclusive, shy artist who avoids limelight, preferring to let his art speak for itself, Ron Mueck does a pretty good job! So much so, that his first major European exhibition in eight years has been prolonged by a month. For a few more days Mueck’s astoundingly hyperrealistic figures will continue to amaze those lucky few who make it to Fondation Cartier, in Paris. It features three new, especially created sculptures: a massive elderly couple sunbathing, a miniature mother with her baby in a sling, and a teeny young couple.
A Mueck figure is a masterpiece of meticulous precision: from the tiniest beauty mark to the last droplet of sweat, a verisimilitude of life frozen in time. This remarkable aptitude is hardly surprising, considering Mueck’s background; born in Melbourne to parents who were toy makers, as a child he was modelling toys. As an adult he was making models and puppets for children’s television and films in his native Australia until Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, invited him to work at the Muppet Workshop in New York. Thus began a fruitful collaboration that lead to Mueck’s participation in Henson’s film Labyrinth (1986) [a film I absolutely need to watch!] and The Storyteller series (1988).
Mueck moved on to establish his own company in London, in the field of animatronics for the advertising industry. But he took the first step to become the artist we know today, in 1996 when he collaborated with his mother-in-law, the artist Paula Rego, to produce a realistic figure of Pinocchio as part of a tableau she was working on. Rego introduced him to Charles Saatchi who was suitably impressed, started collecting and commissioning more work and a star was born…
More at ease in his studio where he spends long months, slowly and painstakingly transforming wood, silicon or fibreglass to extraordinary works of art, Mueck feels uncomfortable showing up at his exhibitions, except when it comes to assembling or giving the last beauty touches to his figures.
Mueck works on smaller or larger scale figures, primarily human; he very rarely works on other life forms and never life-size. To fully comprehend the experience that is to look at a Mueck figure one must come face to face with one. Simply put, there is no other way one can describe these unique, hyperrealistic models, mirroring the human condition to perfection, or their effect on the spectator through their cleverly thought placement and resizing; unsettling, eerie but, most of all, totally engaging.
Photography was only allowed extra muros. Here, the elderly couple under an umbrella, from an outsider’s point of view: Theatrum Botanicum. The garden of the Fondation Cartier is also a commissioned artwork, created by the artist Lothar Baumgarten. It comes complete with nearly 200 plant species, birds, pollinating insects, bats and a little wooden kiosk with refreshments.
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
261, boulevard Raspail
Ron Mueck exhibition runs until 27 October 2013.
It is complemented by Still Life: Ron Mueck at Work, a short film by Gautier Deblonde. A glimpse into the artist’s studio; enlightening but it *unavoidably* does take away a bit of the magic.
Photos not otherwise credited, by Konstantinos Implikian.
Paris, 28-30 June 2013