Our first reaction when standing before a work by Ron Mueck is of awe. Our admiration creeps up on us almost instinctively when we examine the details of the human bodies that are invariably the topic of his sculptures. Is the author of this work an artist or just an excellent craftsman - a technician? He himself places himself outside this issue: "I have never wanted to be a sculptor. I don't know why I do it, but the truth is I can't imagine doing anything else. I don't consider myself an artist, this is simply the only thing I know how to do."
Actually, Mueck is a puppet creator. Born in Australia, he settled in London in 1983 to work with Jim Henson, the famous creator of Sesame Street and the Muppets. The experience he aquired led him to venture into the world of advertising as a mannequin maker. From here on his story resembles a fairy tale... In 1996 Portuguese painter Paula Rego, who had been living in London for long, met Mueck and ordered a Pinocchio mannequin from him for one of her works. The puppet he created was so expressive that the painter kept it for herself in her studio where, some time later, it was discovered by art collector Charles Saatchi. The puppeteer saw himself drawn from the advertising world and into the art world.
His entrance in the art scene was a true scandal! One of the first works he displayed was a sculpture of his father, who had recently passed away, naked. Full of realism, the sculture had another, even more shocking, characteristic: it wasn't even a metre long. What twisted idea was that? Far from being scandalous, it was a heartfelt act of love.
This is one of the best qualities in Ron Mueck's work: the frailty of human beings is presented in a raw way, not perfect human beings, but precisely the opposite. That's the quality that makes them unbearably real, but also profoundly emotional, touching even, as the monumental or small scale of the figurines adds an unnerving oddness. Simultaneously real and fake, they embody the duality of the human being, bearer, as Pinocchio, of truth and lies.
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