There are only three half-decent Australian things; The NRL (Australian Rugby League, the most gloriously brutal sport in the world), Barry Humphries and Ron Mueck. There used to be four, but these days Rolf Harris is in the bad books. The rest of Australia is composed of poisonous snakes and arse-biting spiders, so best you give the place a wide berth.
Ron Mueck is an artist that specialises in hyper-realistic sculptures of human figures. I say ‘realistic’, but they are either too big or too small in scale. This, and their surreal humour, is what makes them so disconcertingly interesting. And it makes me a big fan of Ron’s work.
He came from a special-effects model-making background, so back then he’d work with the stuff that they’d make animatronics and puppets from i.e. metal frames and painted latex.
Apparently, Mr Mueck doesn’t use latex these days. One of the problems with it is that it contains acid that eventually dissolves the latex. Hence all of Ray Harryhausen’s Oscar-winning dinosaurs, from films like ‘One Million Years BC’ and ‘Valley of the Gwangi’, are now dripping off their metal skeletons. If the voracious art-snatcher Charles Saatchi had paid millions for one of Mueck’s sculptures he’d have been be a bit peeved if the cheeks eventually slid down the face and the eyes fell out and rolled under the settee.
I first came across Ron Mueck’s work when I saw ‘Boy’ in London’s Millennium Dome many years ago. This is a 5 metre high figure of a crouching boy. The boy now crouches, still looking like he’s doing a public poo, in an art gallery in Aarhus in Denmark. The eyes haven’t fallen out, yet.
You’ll see that I took a picture of ‘Boy’. This is a bit of a novelty because I’ve travelled to see exhibitions of Ron’s work in Paris, London and most recently Hull (unlikely I know, but a City of Culture apparently). On all of these occasions photography was strictly forbidden. Presumably this was at the request of the artist.
Okay, I can understand that if you all go to all the bother of meticulously painting every tiny liver-spot and hand-inserting every over-sized pubic hair then you’ll want your work to be photographed professionally for posterity, not by some yobbo with a nicked i-phone. But look Ron, your work is so impressive that the first thing the average non-arts punter wants to do is reach for his phone and share it with his mates. Now is that such a bad thing?
It is indeed art with popular appeal, but in a good way i.e. it has great artistic merit and it has redefined sculpture. So why not let people share it? Maybe, Ron, you have your reasons, and I’ve never risked the clammy hand of a museum guard on my shoulder, but even I would like to keep records of your wonderful work as photos. I don’t have the resources of a Mr Saatchi so a photo would be my cheaper alternative.
Unless you fancy doing a small commission just for me? A foreskin for £10 maybe? Although don’t make it one of your over-sized pieces, my wife says there is a big enough knob-end in our house already. I don’t know what she means.
For my other guides to arty things click here.