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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

Comments

Anonymous said…
great blog
check this one for our "deconstructive music" project
www.moremars.org

thnks

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About the Author

Welcome to the website of the English poet and critic, Ben Wilkinson.
Ben was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He received his first degree from the University of Sheffield, and holds an MA and PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Poetry Business Competition and a 2014 Northern Writers' Award
His debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, appeared from Seren Books in February 2018.
He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool Football Club fan, and among other things he works as poetry critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. You can find many of his reviews on this site.
To contact Ben about readings, workshops, or for any other enquiries, you can drop him a line at benwilko(at sign)gmail.com. Unfortunately, I am not able to consider unsolicited requests from authors for book reviews.

You can follow Ben on Twitter - @BenWilko85 - and on Facebook.

You can find B…

Way More Than Luck (Seren Books, 2018)

From the thumping heartbeat of the distance runner to the roar of football terraces across the decades, Ben Wilkinson’s debut confronts the struggles and passions that come to shape a life. Beginning with an interrogation of experiences of clinical depression and the redemptive power of art and running, the collection centres on a series of vivid character portraits, giving life to some of football's legends. By turns frank, comic, sinister and meditative – ‘the trouble with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head’ – these poems uncover the beautiful game’s magic and absurdity, hopes and disappointments, as striking metaphors for our everyday dramas. Elsewhere there are tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds, in an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue. All are united by a desire to speak with searching clarity about matters of the heart. Way More …