The ancient medieval bestiaries often described the known animal species of the time in the manner of a treatise on zoology, endowing them with very human virtues and flaws. Humanizing the beasts served fundamentally to speak of human passions and to give moral lessons to the reader. Gerard Mas’s personal bestiary is far from this purpose; it rather aims to highlight our animality as humans and to place us in a much more modest, and probably more uncomfortable, position as a species in the animal kingdom.
Through this exhibition, Mas also speaks of the different ways in which we have historically related to animals: by turning them into gods, exploiting them as resources, or integrating them into our homes as pets. In this context, the absurd and comedy often appear to speak more of human follies than of the animal represented. Unlike painting, which allows the artist to play with light, atmosphere, and landscape, sculpture, with its corporeal and three-dimensional character, forces the artist to be very selective when choosing the object to represent.
Until the arrival of abstractions, this object has almost always been the human figure. The few examples of animals that we find in the sculptural tradition are: either statues with divine or magical attributes, animals necessary in the represented scene (such as the horse in an equestrian statue) or animals that serve as allegorical complements to the human figure (a lion as a symbol of power, a dog as a symbol of fidelity…). Finally, the fascination for some showy, beautiful, and sometimes impressive exotic animals has also driven some artists to represent them.
Gerard Mas overturns the usual codes of reading and often chooses animals that had not been practically represented in the History of Art. In his work, we find everything from pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, cats, rats, mice, to cockroaches. Their apparent vulgarity as domestic or parasitic animals of our homes has meant that we have never looked at them with the fascination with which we are capable of contemplating a panther or a wild horse. In his Bestiary, Mas invites us to undertake this exercise and to share his particular view of many of these modest and forgotten animals, which in some way challenge us as spectators due to their profound relationship with us, humans.