when it wasn’t rude to stare

At a dinner table conversation last month; all I heard was “the baby is…like…the size of…this room.” Enough to pay attention when you’re in a restaurant of normal size and enough to hold a good 60 people comfortably. Looking around me and taking in the width and length of the room, I thought “no, it can’t be.” Paying slightly more attention I heard a friend describing the latest art exhibition in the Christchurch Art Gallery, “his name starts with an R, Robert something maybe but so lifelike…a must see!” In Christchurch last month specifically for a spectacular birthday celebration 72-hour stay, thoughts didn’t carry much further than cake and candles but with a spare morning and time to kill, my man and I headed to the gallery to find a queue of people waiting patiently for not a Robert something but a Ron Mueck.

I consider myself to be somewhat of an arty fart; not obsessed but I have been to my fair few share of art galleries and exhibitions around the world. Aside from staring at the Mona Lisa for 15 seconds in the Louvre, I love wandering through the MoMA when in New York and last year I spent a couple of hours walking through the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice; unable to comprehend that this was once someone’s private collection of art. However, never before has an exhibition stayed with me for so long after, as real as if I had just left the gallery, taking me back to the moment when I saw and simply stared and kept staring trying to take it all in. Ron Mueck is a first for me in this regard.

Turning the corner and stepping into the exhibition the first thing I see is Dead Dad, so fantastically real (from all the CSIs I watch) with its stubble, yellowing skin, floppy but stiff pose if not for being 2/3 smaller than an actual human. Ron Mueck is a renowned hyper-realist sculpture artist, born in Melbourne and working out of Great Britain. Discovered by Charles Saatchi after making a lifelike Pinocchio for a London play, he has made a series of human forms so lifelike in sculpture that you can’t help but stare and ponder and wonder how on earth has someone made this? Following on we come across the larger than life newborn baby who looks like it has just popped out of a giantess, with its umbilical cord laying there and its skin all creased from the pressures of labour. I am next confronted by a woman In Bed, contemplating life with her doona pulled up and her hand raised to her face. I feel like I have been that woman at some stage when all of life’s woes come to a standstill and are still unfortunately there the morning after; if only she wasn’t at least 15 metres long. Through Mueck’s processes, he manages to use resin and silicone to get the creases of the skin right when the foot bends in a stocking, to finely place hair by hair on a chin to get a 5 o’clock shadow right and to get the tautness of a muscle so correct that you can feel your own leg mimicking the sculpture before you.

I left the gallery in awe and astounded by this person’s talents. So, when you next see a poster where it announces that Ron Mueck is showing at an exhibition near you, all I can say is – go!

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