No matter how many images you look at in books or on the web, nothing quite prepares you for the impact of seeing a Ron Mueck sculpture for real.
And we had that great pleasure recently at the temporary exhibition at the marvellous Manchester City Art Gallery.
Ron Mueck is an Australian hyperrealist sculptor, now working in the United Kingdom, but his early career was as a model maker and puppeteer for children's television in Australia (notably Shirl's Neighbourhood). He went on to work in films, the best-known of which is probably Labyrinth, for which he also contributed the voice of Ludo.
Mueck moved on to establish his own company in London, making photo-realistic props and animatronics for the advertising industry. Although highly detailed, these props were usually designed to be photographed from one specific angle, hiding the mess of construction seen from the other side. Mueck increasingly wanted to produce realistic sculptures which looked perfect from all angles.
In 1996, he moved over to fine art, collaborating with his mother-in-law, Paula Rego (of whom more in another blog, I think), to produce small figures as part of a tableau she was showing at the Hayward Gallery. Rego introduced him to Charles Saatchi who was immediately impressed and started to collect and commission his work. This led to the piece which made Mueck's name, Dead Dad, being included in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy the following year. Dead Dad is a rather haunting silicone and mixed media sculpture of the corpse of Mueck's father reduced to about two thirds of its natural scale.
Mueck's sculptures faithfully reproduce the minute detail of the human body, but play with scale to produce disconcertingly jarring visual images. His five metre high sculpture Boy 1999 was a feature in the Millennium Dome and later exhibited in the Venice Biennale.
At the other end of the scale, his Sleeping Couple is little more than 500mm from head to toe.
The Manchester exhibition, which included both Wild Man and the Sleeping Couple, was part of a travelling series called Artists' Rooms. If it comes within a hundred miles of your home town, just make the effort to go and see his work. It's worth it, I promise.
If you're interested in knowing more, there is the catalogue raisonné on Amazon. And there's always the book published for the Sensation exhibition.