I have been awed and delighted by our National Gallery’s acquisition of Ron Mueck’s Head of a Baby. The hyper-real sculpture is so lovingly rendered it achieves what any great art must do: stir the senses.
One of the artist’s primary strategies is to shrink or enlarge the figure, a change in scale that imbues his forms with a psychological dimension they do not ordinarily possess. With the exception of scale, colour, and attention to detail, Untitled (Head of a Baby) mimics a classical bust, sculptures that are essentially portraits of the famous. Although this young human has yet to make its mark on the world, at this monumental scale the baby appears paradoxically to possess the gravitas of a great leader.
By happenstance, I found a site that depicts one of Mueck’s exhibitions (no, I don’t speak Russian), and it confirmed to me how great an observer of human nature he is. In that exhibition, Mueck does not portray the beautiful people, but people like you an me, marked with life and living, in gloriously accurate details (notice the toes of the fat man).
Ironically, Mueck began his sculpting career as a professional model maker for Jim Henson’s Muppets. He’s come a long way, for our general delight.