Ron Mueck, the Australian sculptors, latest exhibition is currently showing in Edinburgh at the National Gallery of Scotland, on Princes St. Art is the product of human creativity. Such a definition surely means that Mueck’s human sculptures, that differ between the super sized and minuscule, are worthy exhibits for the Edinburgh Art Festival. The only problem is some disagree. My visit on Monday, while never profound, impressed me enough to recommend this show as a must see during Edinburgh’s festival season.
Cameras aren’t allowed in the exhibition, so if you’d like to see images of the works the National Gallery of Scotland website houses a small online collection. I’ve also linked through to others photos on flickr in some cases.
A small queue had gathered to enter the exhibit and hand over their Â£6; the rooms of the exhibit were busy but I was always able to gain a clear and unobstructed view of the sculptures. The ‘Wildman‘ exhibit was the first sculpture I saw. The first thing I noticed, and it’s a theme that would run through every work on show, was the sheer level of detail and life-like qualities present in each human Ron Mueck has modelled. From a distance the Wildman looked real. Despite him being massively over-sized, he bizarrely still looked real. Upon closer inspection no detail was lost. Looking at the mans elbows made me check my own body to concur. The pores on the skin, the veins under the skin, the nails, skin tones, hair, eyes, etc. All perfect. If you can’t see the art in this exhibit, you should surely be able to appreciate the sheer quality of the workmanship. Also I was struck by the expression and motion Mueck had instilled into the sculptures.
Another room held “In Bed”, where a large woman lay under the covers and her face held an expressionless gaze. The sculpture portrayed unhappiness, loneliness and a certain look of resignation. In another room “Two Women” re-created a familiar scene, where two old women stood looking unhappy with the world, yet one of the women was making an unkind gesture about someone she had spotted. The “Baby” piece shows an over-sized newborn baby whose eyes have just opened and she is seeing the world for the first time. While technically impressive, the baby failed to capture any emotion in me; yet others I spoke to found it stirred feelings inside them. My favourite piece was “The Spooning Couple”. This showed two lovers layed on the bed together, yet their whole body language and expression screamed that something had gone from their relationship that would be difficult, if not impossible, to rekindle - I felt that if this piece were real, there would be little or no conversation between the characters. One of the great qualities of Mueck’s work is that anyone can comment and anyone can appreciate it - conversation is easily generated between families and friends, such as which sculpture was your favourite and why.
A room showing sketches, prototype sculptures and brief information on Ron Mueck and his work stood outside the video room. Inside the video room a DVD of Ron Mueck producing his work and showing some of his techniques was playing. This room was fairly busy with real human personality traits on full show; some persons standing by the entrance, while some stormed their way in and blocked off peoples views, etc.
Ron Mueck’s work is accessible to everyone - with children, teenagers, young and old all likely to take some joy in some aspect of the sculptures. Creative types may concentrate more on the expressions of the sculptures, while the more technically focused will marvel at the level of detail and ask questions such as “how did he do that?” or “how did he transport the works here?”. I don’t believe Mueck’s work offers a narrative of the human condition nor that it offers the art field breathtaking concepts. But why should it? This exhibition offers a creative ability to capture expression, technical skills to marvel at and possesses a clear enjoyment/wow factor. And these qualities should not be mocked. Mueck’s work, I’m sure, will have introduced the National Gallery of Scotland to many new visitors, who wouldn’t usually attend art exhibits.
Put the debate to one side and just enjoy the show for what it is. Highly recommended.
Ron Mueck’s exhibition runs at the National Gallery of Scotland until the 3rd September 2006. Adult entry costs Â£6.