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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

‘In between the breaths is the space in which we live, between the before breath and the after breath is the field or realm in which time exists and then ceases to exist.’

Laurence Durrell, The Avignon Quintet 1974-85

The breath of life is palpable in these sculptures: Wild man appears arrested in fear, Pregnant woman stands in weariness and Untitled (old woman in bed) curls up in a deep, perhaps final, sleep. London-based artist Ron Mueck creates an intense awareness of the different ways in which we experience vulnerability and a strong sense of tenderness is never far away. Mueck confronts the inevitability of life’s ultimate fragility in the diminished figure of Untitled (old woman in bed). The physically dominant Wild man recoils unexpectedly. From ancient times the ‘wild man’ of unrepressed desires and unknown violence has lurked in the wilderness as a symbol of fear. Instead, Mueck’s embodiment of man’s aggressive animal nature perches uneasy, afraid and intimidated. In contrast Pregnant woman embraces and transcends her vulnerable state: she lifts her arms above her head, her belly as counterweight, and closes her eyes in her own safe place.

2 portraits

1Wild Man, 2005. 2Pregnant woman, 2002. Both by Ron Mueck .

Related information

Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks

In the flesh

Previous exhibition, 2014

In the flesh is an enthralling and immersive experience of contemporary art that confronts the concept of humanness and the experiences of consciousness and emotion. Featuring ten Australian artists including Jan Nelson, Patricia Piccinini, Ron Mueck and Michael Peck, the exhibition explores themes of intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.