We’re struck by the monumental scale and startling realism of Ron Mueck’s In bed 2005 (illustrated), then — almost voyeuristically — we are compelled to move closer to inspect the detailed texture of the figure’s hair, her translucent skin, and almost pulsing veins. Stepping back, her apprehensive facial expression and seemingly vulnerable state of being come into focus. Why is this woman taking refuge in bed? What is it about the world around her that is causing such unease?
Ron Mueck ‘In bed’
DELVE DEEPER: Getting ready for bed: Contemporary art conservation
As a reflection on the human condition, In bed has a particular resonance with this moment in history. For an ever-increasing number of us, we withdraw to our beds — once largely places of rest, now sites of confinement, isolation and convalescence — as the air fills with virus particles, the hazy traces of climate disasters and the anxieties of geopolitical tensions.
Known for creating hyperreal sculptures that invite us to reflect on universal emotions, Mueck uses his remarkable craftsmanship to arrest his subjects in psychologically and physically exposed states. By manipulating the scale of his figures, and paying meticulous attention to their expression, pose and gestures, Mueck magnifies the inner lives of ordinary people in these frozen portraits.
With one hand cradling her face, partially covering her mouth as she looks distractedly upwards into the distance, the other resting on her chest, and her knees drawn up under the bedcovers, the artist offers no clues as to the subject’s circumstances or preoccupations.