A National Gallery of Australia Focus Exhibition
As a child, Ron Mueck experimented with puppetry and model making, influenced by his parents’ work as toymakers. Failing selection to art school, Mueck began to work as a window-dresser. Within a few years he progressed to making and operating puppet animals for children’s television programs. In the mid 1980s he travelled to America, where he worked on The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, before settling in London.
Mueck’s entrée into the art world occurred almost accidentally in 1996, after a model his mother-in-law had asked him to create captured the attention of advertising tycoon Charles Saatchi. Soon after his work was then included in Saatchi’s controversial exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy, London, which travelled to Berlin and Brooklyn, New York, and marked Mueck’s debut as an artist. Mueck participated in the 2001 Venice Biennale from which his work Boy emerged as a talking point. He presently lives and works in London.
Pregnant woman is one of Mueck’s most ambitious works to date. Standing at 2.5 metres, the sculpture is monumental, utterly imposing and even intimidating when first seen. After a while, however, this majestic Earth Mother becomes familiar, unthreatening and endearing. She is exhausted, hands held back over her head; the face is tender and vulnerable. Her presence is powerful, evoking a multitude of thoughts, ranging from the wonder of maternity and procreation to population control and the burden of female responsibility.
As Mueck has said, Pregnant woman is a contemporary response to representations of mother and child at the National Gallery, London. The sculpture continues the tradition of representations of motherhood that can be traced back to prehistoric figurines of fertility goddesses. These works have become symbols that engage spectators across generations, and assume new meanings with time.