Skip to main content

Ron Mueck

A Girl (2006), by Ron Mueck

Isn’t it incredible? I’ve been fascinated by Ron Mueck’s sculptures since I first saw a selection of them on display at the Royal Scottish Academy Building in Edinburgh, back in the summer of 2006. For those who aren’t aware of his work, Mueck started out as a model maker and puppeteer for children’s television and films (most notably the film Labyrinth), eventually switching to work in fine art given a desire to make more life-like creations viewable from all angles and perspectives. Consequently, he was introduced to the infamous Charles Saatchi by his mother-in-law, Paula Rego, who was instantly impressed with his sculpture and began collecting and commissioning works. This led to the piece that made Mueck’s reputation and the one for which most people know him for, Dead Dad (1997), a silicone and mixed media sculpture of the corpse of Mueck’s father that established Mueck’s incredible ability to create life-like sculptures in larger- (and often smaller-) than-life proportions.

The effect is one which critics have reacted to with equal measures of awe and amazement, infuriation and dislike. While poet and critic Craig Raine has written of Mueck’s ‘unquestionable genius’, Adrian Searle has said that ‘there is something unrelentingly kitsch and sentimental about everything he does’. It is certainly the case that Mueck’s sculptures resist easy interpretation, though this is perhaps more to do with the uncomfortable, voyeuristic position they often put the viewer in than with any artistic inadequacy.

In any case, one of my favourite Mueck works is any early piece, Mask (1997), a larger than life self-portrait that inverts the expectations we would typically bring to bear on such a work. This piece, in its disturbing, engrossing and almost terrifying proportions, has been followed by a further self-portrait, Mask II (2001-2), and a portrait of a smiling black woman, Mask III (2005). The photo of the original Mask below is as faithful as any photo can be, but to feel the full effect of Mueck’s work, particularly such large and overbearing pieces, you really have to witness them in the flesh (which, like all the features of his entirely human form sculptures, is incredibly life-like). In an attempt to capture the effect that the piece has on the viewer, then, I wrote the short poem below a few months ago. If it fails to give a sense of the power of Mueck’s work, perhaps it fails entirely, but rereading it today it at least helps to remind me of the ideas, emotions and thoughts that Mueck’s art stirs within.

Ron Mueck, Mask (1997)

The wall’s somehow whiter in bearing this face
but discerning’s impossible in holding its gaze –

it gives up nothing of itself; not the artist’s private
heaven or hell, stubble-dense, so what comes off

suddenly’s the overwhelming sense
of being watched, the defining of objects

by what they are not, and the same of the self,
while an epic self-portrait is turned inside-out –

a lesson in the panic or sternness in our eyes
that says more of our natures than the course of our lives…

poem by Ben Wilkinson


Anonymous said…
great blog
check this one for our "deconstructive music" project


Popular posts from this blog

Way More Than Luck: 27.2.18 - the launch

Some tips on putting your pamphlet together — winner of the 2013/14 International Book & Pamphlet Competition

There's only this weekend left to submit your pamphlet of poems to the most prestigious pamphlet competition in the land: The Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition 2020

This year's judges are the hugely celebrated writers Imtiaz Dharker and Ian McMillan. Find out more, and enter online, here. You've got until midnight this Sunday 1st March.

Here are some tips I've put together, as winner of the 2013/14 competition for my short collection For Real. Good luck!

• First off, I should mention it took me a good few years to get the pamphlet into shape, and like almost every winner, I entered the competition more than once before winning. Treat the experience as a learning curve: the positive pressure of a deadline and of your work being judged carefully and seriously will help you to improve whatever the outcome.

• Front-load your pamphlet. Every editor in the land knows that you put the very best poems at the front of a book. The first three poems in your pamphlet s…

Poetry in Motion

Why one Reds supporter is committing his love for Liverpool FC to verse

Liverpool FC and poetry have a lot of previous – from John Toshack’s Gosh It’s Tosh collection in the late 70s, to the verse of Dave Kirby and Peter Etherington in the fanzine Red All Over the Land, to the lines written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a University of Liverpool graduate, in the aftermath of 2012’s Hillsborough findings. Now there’s Ben Wilkinson, Reds fan and book critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, who’s compiling a series of poems commemorating the club’s legends. “Football is part of the fabric of life, and anything that’s important to people finds its way into poetry,” he says. “Wilfred Owen’s poem 'Disabled' describes a soldier who loses the use of his legs, meaning he can never play football again. Philip Larkin’s 'MCMXIV' compares boys queuing to join the army to fans outside Villa Park. These poems have stood the test of time because t…