If you head over to Savile Row this Spring, you will be greeted by this rather grumpy looking lady. Standing at an ungainly four foot tall, her naked body scratched up by the bundle of twigs she’s almost straddling, it is a representation of human beings at their most inelegant. This is Aussie-born, London-based Ron Mueck’s solo show at Hauser & Wirth in which you can also see Drift – a mid-life crisis in the form of a bronzed man on a lilo, Still Life – a 6ft slit-throated plucked chicken, and Youth – a tiny stab wound victim.
The works on show are all very different: Woman with sticks seems to tell a story, she could have stepped out of a Brothers Grimm tale, while Drift‘s buff middle-aged sunbather with his glitzy watch and shades seems to be more a satire of society.
I like an exhibition which can change my mind, and this one did; when I first encountered Drift, I was less than impressed – a man on a lilo, so what? But close up, the craftsmanship of his little fingers and toes is really incredible. These are wax models, so I’d been expecting the calibre of those at Madame Tussauds or those dodgy historical ‘experiences’ that school used to take you to, but Mueck’s scale and facial expressions remove this association immediately. There’s none of that waxy rigidity, these strange beings look like they’ve been frozen in time and appear familiar by how real they look but completely bizarre due to their not half-size, not life size, but just-slightly-wrong scale.
At human size, the dead chicken of Still Life becomes quite a sombre image. It’s grotesque, with its gaping neck wound, but the facial expression of this chicken had me feeling very sorry for it. To me, Mueck is confronting his audience with death – the cold, hard reality of it disguised as a bit of butchery. This piece really is uncanny as it’s so precise: somehow every single texture from rope to flesh and metal to downy feathers seems completely real. It felt like we were just waiting for the poor thing’s eyes to blink open.
Finally, Youth; this piece was my most and least favourite all at once. I didn’t like the stance, and I don’t think his expression is as captivating as that of any of the other ‘characters’, however it’s the smallest sculpture and so the details are extra exquisite. I took so many photos of this man’s feet, I think the invigilator thought I had some kind of weird fetish or something, but they are actually amazing! They’re only about 20cm long and absolutely perfect. Maybe I do have some kind of weird fetish.
Anyway, I’m getting sleepy now and I’m starting to ramble. So I hope you like my slightly rubbish iPhone pics – I didn’t expect to be allowed to take photos so I did not take a camera. Breaking the Brownie pact once again (always be prepared).
Ron Mueck, Hauser & Wirth, 19th April – 26th May: much more FREE and much more INTERESTING than Madame Tussauds.
Oh AND it’s on Savile Row which gives you the perfect excuse to hit Hamleys first, then mill about and stare at people with more money than sense afterwards.