Ron Mueck, Drift, 2009
Ron Mueck, who started his working life making models for children’s television before turning his attention and transferring his skills to art, makes the world look strange and often grotesque. His hyper-real figures vary dramatically in scale, from vastly larger than life to positively diminutive; the one thing they never are is life-size. His exhibition at Hauser and Wirth – Mueck’s first solo show in London in over a decade according to the press release – contains just four works but managed to give me quite a lot to think about nonetheless.
Drift occupies on wall of an otherwise empty gallery. A man floats on a lilo on a sea of turquoise. Well, I say he floats. It’s hard to see it any other way but the sea of turquoise is the wall so the floating is imagined given that the man and his lilo are vertical. He seems bathed in sunlight; his hands hang over the sides of the airbed, as though trailing water. He looks relaxed though his eyes are invisible behind his sun glasses and his face is slightly stern.
Sam Taylor Wood, Still Life, 2001
Looking at Jeanne Dunning’s mouldy still lives yesterday made me think about Sam Taylor Wood’s Still Life, a time-lapse video work in which a basket of fruit reminiscent of countless still life paintings gradually decays and is taken over by rather beautiful white mold. At first sight, shown on a plasma screen, the work mimics a painting and it takes time to realise that the fruit is gradually changing as it starts to rot. This is beautiful decay but it’s still hard not to feel a little repulsed by the outcome.
Jeanne Dunning, Hand Hole, 1994
Jeanne Dunning has always been good at making the familiar look strange. It was pictures of hairstyles that first drew me to her work but it was body and food pictures that I first saw in a gallery. In real life the prints were seductive and the images intriguingly strange. In part the defamiliarisation of the body in Hand Hole is down to the way the picture is composed, but it’s also about the scale of the image. Though Dunning’s prints are often modest in size, in images like Hand Hole there is still a shift from the human scale. Add to this the ambiguity of the image when seen along side similarly strange pictures of food.