Gerard Mas (Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 1976) is a sculptor who loves to boycott the beauty of his pieces by combining a classical technique inspired by the Renaissance with groundbreaking pop elements. His art is ironic and sometimes controversial. It features both antique collecting fans and more conceptual current fans.
2022 / 02 / 24
Most of your work is women’s sculptures. What interests you about femininity?
They are imaginary portraits. I used to make men, but I don’t know why I’ve been leaning towards female figures. I guess because men used to do them as antiheroes and with the woman he played to break the supposed image of virtue. They are portraits of the Renaissance and at that time beauty was closely associated with a number of virtues. They put an ermine, which is this white animal, in her hands, and it was an image of purity related to virginity. And then I put a rat in his hands and play at creating those tensions, or other pop items like braces on my teeth or chewing gum.
Where does this interest in the Renaissance come from?
Well it’s a mystery how it starts, they are personal fascinations. I have always been interested in the history of art and I devoted myself to restoration rather than sculpture and I came across that there was a lot of religious art, and not so much civil art, which is very interesting because people show you what it was like. Aristocrats, merchants, people who could afford to pay a portraitist. I’ve always liked it, especially at this time when they treat the portrait almost like a religious image and take on almost surreal hues. That precious way of painting, the watermarks. As if they were representing some divine image.
“I’ve always done things like that. I liked the craft of stone carving, those old trades that were practically non-existent”
And the contrast between Renaissance and pop elements …
I’ve always done things like that. I liked the craft of stone carving, those old trades that were practically non-existent. I grew up artistically in an environment where figuration looked old, caspous … And it was a bit to bring the opposite, you don’t want broth because here you have three cups, I’ll make it even older. I always had a tendency to look for beauty, but you always have the prejudice that this is too cheesy, too topical. Until I started working on these sculptures, making them, and loading them up. I’m not doing beauty lessons, but what if I photographed her braces, and if she stuck out her tongue … Then she made classic sculptures and put them upside down and dropped her peplum, that tunic and showed her panties … I used old techniques to do things closer to Dada, things that are part of my contemporary day to day … For me, mixing the two eras creates a shock. Apply so much time to something so mundane, as simple and seemingly vulgar as sticking a finger in your nose or inflating a bubble gum.
So this prejudice of doing such beautiful things led you to “boycott” your sculptures …
Yeah yeah. I don’t want to teach you what beauty is, on the contrary. Show the contradiction that exists in art itself and in our way of seeing things. It happens to us with the art of the past: we see it with the eyes of the present. You now see a medieval altarpiece and now it takes on surreal hues. We move our way of looking at stereotypes from the past and then change the meaning. A portrait that is sacralized in some way: you introduce a current element and look at it in a completely different way.
What is the influence of religion on your art?
It is undeniable that for many centuries art has evolved in parallel with religion.
“In the end my way of working is classic, but my interests go the other way”
And the contrast between the animal and human worlds is also very much present in what you do.
There was a time when I read a lot about biology and I really enjoyed talking about our animality as humans. This so-called rationality that we have, but that we are basically the same. There was a time when she made a lot of mix of babies and pigs, like the big nanny who is a sow with everything from suckling piglets and there is a baby in between. I also made a chimpanzee, but posed as a neoclassical bust, a statue of a pig instead of an equestrian that was a child riding a pig. In the end my way of working is classic, but my interests go the other way, and hence the contrast between content and form that gives a more unreal look to it all.
What I’ve also seen is that the animals you make are either domesticated or have a very close relationship with humans.
This is sought after. They are farm or house animals that have not been dignified too much. Pigs, sheep, chickens, rats … Animals that in the history of art have not been represented as noble animals. And I also tried to dignify the rats in the Egyptian style. They are animals that repel us or that in the popular imagination have been insulted, frowned upon. Animals that can annoy us put them on a pedestal. It’s going to see how far I can change the way you view that animal: we’re going to turn it into a deity. It is also brutal for a statue made by someone to be placed in a place and worshiped by people. It is not so much with painting as with two-dimensional images: people are charged with so much energy and this spirituality is overwhelmed. And then it’s doing this exercise with a dog, with a cat, with a rat. Turn them into an almost sacred image. It has always fascinated me how you are working with wood or stone and it becomes a sculpture with such a beast meaning.
How is this creative process?
Well it’s funny because I work a lot for flashes. I have an image of what I want and I start modeling in clay and then you realize the thousand gaps you have and you are concretizing. Sometimes it’s a mystery in itself, but it’s about having the antenna properly placed.
How long does it take to finish a piece?
My pieces are slow. It depends, but a month and a half for sure …
Is there a surprise component when working with natural materials?
Yes, it happens to me a lot. Depending on the trunk I find, for example, I model the piece. There are nice surprises, but also unpleasant ones and you can’t go back and you have to adapt. It has happened to me that sometimes I have had to leave because I was not going anywhere.
“I don’t do the pieces hoping to punch anyone in the stomach, but it looks like no matter what you do, there will always be people who find it super outrageous.”
What’s the most controversial piece you’ve ever done?
The girl who is breastfeeding a piglet. In fact, I was doing it for an exhibition and they told me to let it go because they had some clients that might bother them and I asked why and they told me I could remember a mother of God, who may look like very irreverent. And it was a gallery, a contemporary space where people should be cured of scares, but it seems not, that there are still people who can get scared.
But do you self-censor?
No, what’s up! If he doesn’t go here he will go somewhere else. I don’t make the pieces hoping to punch anyone in the stomach, but it looks like no matter what you do there will always be someone out there who will find it super outrageous. And I thought that at this point everyone had seen everything, but it seems that no … I’m amused. There are people who tell me that what I do is more traditional and others who ask me if there is anyone who can have my works in their home. This combination of pigs and humans has made many people very disgusted.
So you have critiques of the contemporary and the most conventional …
If you can get people on both sides angry you’re fine, you’re in a good place. But in the same way I find collectors who like super-conceptual things who at the same time like what I do; and there are also those who collect antiques who like what I do. What I like is the clash of the classic technique I use with content, but that’s not new. Banksy already does. Grab art history icons and pop them up today and load them up.
What are your references?
Aesthetically, my references are far behind. Egyptian art, Gothic art, the portrait of the Renaissance, but also Giuseppe Penone, Louise Bourgeois, Antonio López. From Catalans: Perejaume with his visual poetry and the photographer Chema Madoz, the two heirs of Joan Brossa. And as a contemporary figurative sculptor, I love the work of people like Bruno Walpoth and Efraïm Rodríguez. I really like Dadaism too.
You mentioned before that there are people who wonder if there is anyone who can put your pieces at home … What is the most surreal place where you know they have put a sculpture of yours?
Surreal I don’t know, but some time ago I made a kid who was embedded inside a giant tits. She was a little inspired by the giant breast of that Woody Allen movie, and in the end a gynecologist who assisted in assisted reproduction put her in the waiting room. I also made the lady of the brackets that is in the waiting room of a dentist.
These people have a great sense of humor …
Good luck. Sometimes I made a kind of piece because I saw that there is an art so supposedly deep, especially from the abstraction of the second half of the twentieth century, where everything was very dark. These gestural artists with a gesture entered into a kind of knowledge of something very deep.
But your art is not simple either …
I hope. The way I treat the forms … I do it with all the intensity so that it has a clash of ideas. It’s not a joke, it’s not a joke. And I often dispense with trying to surprise the viewer with any kind of contradiction. Sometimes I just work on that face, that animal in the best way I know how, and I hope this is noticed in some way. My art is also a way to laugh at the supposed canons of beauty that everyone has to abide by.
“My art is also a way to laugh at the supposed canons of beauty that everyone has to abide by”
Yes, but nowadays with social media a lot of importance is given to appearance …
Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. I also realize that the one I make for a girl with a neckline has a lot more likes than if I make an animal. The funny thing about social media is that people work the same way when they look at a sculpture as when they look at a person.
And finally, you can tell me a book, a movie, a series and a record.
I recommended Harari’s book “Sapiens” to everyone I could. Of music, I recently discovered a band called Resavoir and they only have one fully instrumental record. From the movie I’d Say “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”. And tv series, “Fleabag”, because it has a very good English humor. You’re breaking the box continuously and at the same time you think my mother is shaking.
INTERVIEW: MARTA LUQUE
VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE VIEW MORE