There is no rushing Ron Mueck. Since 1996, the Australian sculptor, who is based in London, has completed only 38 pieces. These vary in scale from the surreally diminutive to the oppressively large but are consistent in their exacting detail and unsettling nuance. Mueck's sculptures are involved, fastidious and hyperreal, and he doesn't care how long it takes him to make them.
Which might explain why Mueck's latest exhibition, which runs from April 16 – September 29 at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, is his first in Europe in eight years. Of the nine works in the show, only three of them—Young Couple, Woman with Shopping and Couple under an Umbrella—are new and they represent something of a change in the artist's focus. Much of Mueck's previous work has centered around seemingly isolated individuals: a pensive woman alone in bed; a huge, seemingly scared boy withdrawn into a crouch; a tiny, tousle-haired woman carrying a large bundle of sticks. Here, though, Mueck confronts us with pairs of people in various degrees of contact: a young man and woman in heated embrace; a woman carrying both her baby and heavy-looking grocery bags; an older couple entwined beneath a seaside umbrella. The works are as disconcerting as Mueck fans might expect, but they're now also tinged with sentiment. "In a different studio this might not count as news," writes curator Justin Paton in the show's catalogue. "But in Mueck's studio this moment of contact counts as a statistical and emotional event. [His] current venture into "two-ness" feels like a shift to be reckoned with."
Still Life: Ron Mueck at Work—Short Edition. Exposition Ron Mueck, Fondation Cartier, 2013.
In tandem with the exhibition, the Fondation Cartier has commissioned a 50 minute film. "Still Life: Ron Mueck at Work" is an intimate portrait of the artist by the London-based French photographer Gautier Deblonde. "Above all, it's a film about time," explains Deblonde, who visited Mueck's usually impenetrable north London studio nearly every day for 18 months. "The most striking, perhaps the most fascinating thing when you watch this artist at work is the repetition and concentration that are involved in what he does. He may spend several days reproducing the same movement: nothing else exists, only his movement, his clay, his resin or his paint."
Ron Mueck is on view at the at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, April 16 – September 29, 2013. fondation.cartier.com
Photos: ©Thomas Salva / Lumento