Ron Mueck

Wild Man

2005

Medium
Mixed media
Dimensions
Displayed: 2850 x 1619 x 1080 mm
weight: 1311 Kilograms
Acquisition
ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
Reference
AR00034

Summary

Wild Man is a sculpture by Australian artist Ron Mueck of a large naked man sitting on a stool. The man has a light skin tone and is represented with a high degree of realism apart from his scale, which is larger than life-size. Measuring nearly three metres in height in his seated position, the man sits on the edge of a wooden stool with his back and arms straight and his hands gripping the sides of the stool. His shoulders are raised up to his ears while his toes press into the floor with his heels elevated. The man has long brown unkempt shoulder-length hair and a dark bushy beard. His body is brushed with hair, including his chest, arms, legs and genitals. The man looks slightly downward to the right with his face contorted in a tense expression.

Wild Man is made from polyester resin, fibreglass, silicone, aluminium, wood and synthetic hair. It was made in 2005 according to the same method Mueck consistently employs to create his sculptures. The artist begins with drawings before creating small clay or plaster maquettes to refine his ideas. The maquettes are gradually scaled up to create a full-sized, detailed clay model of the work. From this clay model Mueck creates a series of mould sections in order to cast the sculpture in fibreglass. The fibreglass sculpture is then painted and hair is applied. Although the artist tends to use real hair for his smaller figures, for Wild Man acrylic fibre hair was used. The last detail added to the sculptures are the eyes. Like all Mueck's sculptures, Wild Man is rendered with hyper-realistic detail, noticeable from the texture of the skin to the careful placement of individual hairs. Before working as an artist Mueck was a puppet and prop maker for television and film, where he developed his precise techniques.

Mueck initially planned to make a figure who appeared confined, as if backed into a corner, but decided to make Wild Man after seeing an illustration of the colossal stone sculpture Appennino 1579–80 (Villa di Pratolino, Vaglia, Italy) by the late Renaissance artist Giambologna. Appennino depicts a crouching hirsute river god, which inspired the oversized hairy ‘wild man’ of Mueck’s sculpture. The critic Anne Cranny-Francis notes that a wild man tends to be a reclusive individual afraid of human society and that this ‘might explain why [Mueck’s] large male figure – in one sense, the very image of the powerful white male – grips his chair, body rigid with tension, and stares over the heads of viewers in a paroxysm of fear’ (Cranny-Francis 2013, p.6). The man’s nakedness adds to this sense of vulnerability, making him both physically and emotionally exposed.

Mueck’s sculptures frequently experiment with scale. Some works are smaller than actual size, such as Spooning Couple 2005 (Tate AR00033), while others, including Wild Man, are much larger than life-size. The artist has noted that he never makes life-size figures because ‘it never seemed to be interesting. We meet life-size people every day ... It [the size of the sculptures] makes you take notice in a way that you wouldn’t do with something that’s just normal.’ (Quoted in Tanguy 2003, accessed 10 December 2014.)

Further reading
Sarah Tanguy, ‘The Progress Big Man: A Conversation with Ron Mueck’, Sculpture: A Publication of the International Sculpture Centre, vol.22, no.6, July/August 2003, http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag03/jul_ag03/mueck/mueck.shtml, accessed 10 December 2014.
Ron Mueck, exhibition catalogue, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh 2006.
Anne Cranny-Francis, ‘Sculpture as Deconstruction: The Aesthetic Practice of Ron Mueck’, Visual Communication, vol.12, no.1, February 2013, pp.2–25.

Susan Mc Ateer
University of Edinburgh
February 2015

The University of Edinburgh is a research partner of ARTIST ROOMS.

Online caption

Although Mueck’s sculptures are astonishingly lifelike (despite their scale!), verisimilitude is not what ultimately matters to the artist, but the ends to which it is put. The artist wants us to believe that his figures are experiencing certain emotions and for us to empathise with these feelings. ‘Wild Man’ shows signs of extreme anxiety, even terror; he grips the stool and his toes press down onto the floor. The artist has made him look doubly vulnerable. Despite dwarfing us mere mortals who look at him – he is nearly three metres high – his state of ongoing fear elicits a sympathetic response from us. Instead of our feeling intimidated by him, he seems intimidated by us.

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