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Portal Cuba Arte
Pascal Masi in Havana: sculpting the elegance of life
Autor: Toni Piñera
Source: CUBARTE 16th of September 2012
When we take a look at the sculptural pieces of the French artist Pascal Masi, their contemporary character, together with the pleasure that the harmony of a polished concept and an image provoke in our senses, is quite clear. These are ingredients that model a strong work not only due to the significance of its human and philosophical contents, but also due to its internal construction, which is equally based in the formal synthesis expressed through precise conceptions.
Living in his time and looking beyond, experimenting with shapes, playing with art and materials, are characteristics that emerge from the contact with the works of the sculptor (France, 1954), which gathered under the title of “Animales del Planeta” was inaugurated this Friday September 7, at 4pm in the building of Universal Arts of the National Museum of Fine Arts.
There is no doubt that there is an open conspiracy among Pascal Masi, sculpture and ecology. That is revealed on his creations and when we look at the group of 45 pieces that made up this exhibit, which is the first one the artist had in Latin American soil. There are small, medium and big sizes works, which are made of bronze, iron and resin, in which different animals from Europe and Africa are reflected. His sculptural works, in front of which spectators are touched due to so many creation enigmas, can be qualified as intimate, reflexive and poetic.
A question motivates Pascal Masi. Animals? He smiled and remained thoughtful, to go back from his internal being with his burden. He said that: “The animal world gives us the extraordinary richness of nature; since the enigmatic way of walking of a panther and the processions they make together, until the improbable miracles that the white bear perform to survive. And so many other things! For respect to this show that life offers, my work begins with a study of the animal anatomy. Later, when the sculpture reaches the form I want to give to it, I make an effort to remove the useless details in order to achieve a synthesis. The thing is that my sculptures are not an anatomical representation of the animal world as such, instead, they represent life’s elegance”. Then he crowned his words with a phrase by Beaudelaire: “That immortal beauty instinct is what makes us see Earth and its sights as an idea, as a correspondence with the sky”.
But there are other reasons that bring Masi closer to animals. And it is the fact that “animals never lie. That is the most important thing. Pose, movement and the beauty they give to the world are also some of these reasons.” Humour can not be missed, in some of them it is present in every single thing they do. “That is a trilogy in my work. I repeat that it is, in general terms, a tribute to the beauty of the living world. And among the concerns I have, the respect to animals’ life is the first one, besides what people would think about my work within 200 years. Animals’ life counts. That falls within the ecology sphere.”
Animales del planeta exhibition
The exhibit Animales del Planeta is sponsored by the host institution, the National Fine Arts Museum, and the General Consulate of Monaco in Havana; and it is part of a cultural exchange between the both parts involved. Sir Jean Pierre Pastor, Consul General of Monaco, commented that this story began a few years ago. In 2004, the Principality of Monaco received the exhibit of the Cuban painter Mariano Rodriguez, who is recognized as one of the greatest artists of Latin American Art in the 20th century. The following year, nine representative painters of the contemporary Cuban painting presented 80 new works. Both exhibitions were organized by the joint initiative of the authorities from Monaco and Cuba. Now it is being underway in Cuba, but not by coincidence, it is on display here to recall the agreements of the Rio+ 20 Summit in its 20th anniversary, and also to recall the need to protect the environment and biodiversity for life to go on. This is something that Cuba as well as the Albert II Foundation—directed by SAS Sovereign Prince Albert II from Monaco—particularly underlines for the world to take conscience of these problems.
Sculpture and environment, or more specifically animals’ life and their existence as such, are the main characters in the stories of Pascal Masi, who got involved in sculpture more than 20 years ago and this was a revelation, a magic touch that gave meaning to his life. It has been a secure bridge through which he expresses his feelings and talks to others. A quick look at his works reveals a simple line and an extreme elegance on their creation. His shapes are solid and his outlines are clear; these ones raise full of life to communicate a message to us. It is known that everything that an artist creates has been lived from one or other way by him. Art is a living tissue. If you do not live, you can not create anything. What an artist produces is part of a personal experience that is universalized and made valid for men in general. Masi pointed out that: “Every creation act is a portrait. You leave a lot of your personality in the materials; I think that what I am and what I think is there on my prints. I am there.”
Cubism: the basis of his work
His work is near cubism. He expressed that: “Although it reflects I am structural, it is a sweet cubism. Sculpture is a technical art due to many reasons, and I make many incursions into bronze and the big resins, which are complicated materials that require complicated equipment to work with. I love the permanent confrontation between technical force and pure creativity; that dialogue among height, balance and even the security of people is passionate, and characteristic of a sculptor”.
Starting from the analysis of the dream cubist structure, which is very typical of the artist that expresses it through the tensions that the solidity of the substance spread, this own oneiric characteristic is highlighted even more when it is on display on the materials, in a struggle and dialogue with very diverse visual elements.
Weight, frontal and angular zigzag composition, matter and dialogue with very serious visual elements, is a game in which the suggestive is always restricted by artistic laws that sometimes can be severe. Visual intricate workings with angles that are suggested many times, which in their apparent existence portray and some times suffocate more explicit symbolical elements, are becoming clear. The weapons of his work are settled, and Masi organizes his battle with the materials, which is an interaction between structures and poetic fantasies that represent the most valuable, original and gratifying elements of his sculptures. These resources, which are used with a calm wisdom, give expression to a work that, as all big things in life, demands time and serenity to appreciate it in all its dimensions.
Materials could not be missed. His eyes shine when he talks about the bronze, which according to what he said, “represents eternity. And it coincides with my wish for my work to be a testimony for the future. I want my works to live thousand of years, and that people can recognize species that maybe become extinct with time, among which can be the polar bear, with which I work a lot. Moreover, bronze is a noble material. Resin, on the other hand, is less resistant.”
An almost mystic energy is released from his creations. Animals have movement (panthers, elephants, penguins, bears, rhinoceros, and lions) and it seems that they breathe. Masi goes a little more beyond what can be seen at first glance, he goes deep into the material with instruments, hands and sometimes even with his whole body to search and find tracks to capture life. To deliver his art to the audience with a humour touch, plus the sensitivity he puts on it, is a characteristic of his work. The same titles offer us a nice vision of what was dealt with the materials. The thing is that sculpture allows us to be descriptive and humorous because it is very near to us due to the three- dimensional characteristic of sculpture. (…) Viento de proa, Nariz al viento, Pájaro bobo cosquilleándose, Sueño profundo, Baila con los osos—making reference to the film “Dance with the wolves” by Kevin Kostner—, Espera, no te apures, Marcha de los emperadores…
A sculptural homage to Cuba
On his dialogue, Pascal Masi stresses a monumental piece of welded metal (iron), which he specifically created to be shown in Cuba: Cigarillours, which is a contraction of cigar and bear, and also a tribute to the Puro Habano. Then the city of Havana and Cuba were mentioned in the conversation. “There in Europe you have a huge reputation, you are an important city and country due to your history and culture. It is prestigious, in a word: mystic. That is why I wanted to make a big and well thought exhibition, which had different stages. I even came here at the beginning of this year. It is something very important to me”.
With the wisdom of someone with full control of his look on the visible and coherence on his interpretation, Masi is not other thing than an extraordinary narrator who knows how to make last on his works the imaginative ability and willingness of an adolescent who is dazzled by the world he discovers and lives it in and from his imagination, in all its intensity and physical, chronological and fantastic dimensions.
We know very well that life and dreams are many times irreconcilable. The artistic creation can hope a bigger privilege than masterly giving expression to that truth and its otherness. That is what Pascal Masi does with this work where he immortalizes, for future generations, the life of animals on Earth. The real appearance of his characters and their diverse images are the great translation of the existence that all of us should have lived or should live; life as it is, pure imagination, always splendid for all of us.
Translation: Lisandra Alapón (Cubarte)
CubaNet: Bridging the Straits
Web Press article published on November 24, 2012
Pascal Masi’s Animal Sculptures
The National Museum of Fine Arts shows the exhibit Animales del Planeta by sculptor Pascal Masi.
In Cuba’s artistic context, it’s been said that sculpture is the Cinderella of the arts. The phrase has its origin in a real phenomenon: the lesser attention that Cuban specialized critics have paid to sculpture, on various occasions, due to a marked decline in this art form after the 1980s. Travelling back in time, one would remember Rita Longa’s figures, Antonia Eiriz’s assemblages — a line of work continued by Juan Ricardo Amaya — and other distinguished artists within this form like Osneldo García, José Villa, Mateo Torriente’s works in terracotta or the link between art and religion in Juan Francisco Elso’s pieces. However, after a while, silence seized sculpture.
Today, in the work of the artist from Monaco, Pascal Masi, the blast of energy of his animal sculptures has fanned the ashes to revive the fire. The temporary exhibition hall at the National Museum of Fine Arts is displaying Animales del Planeta, not only as a way to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries through art, but also to give the Cuban public the possibility of interacting with exquisitely made pieces in bronze, resin and iron.
At the same time, Animales del Planeta is a way to return this art form to a prominent space and facilitate the exchange between local artists through their dialogue with a foreign poetic. In the case of Cuba, José Emilio Fuentes’ (JEF) works have the closest link with Masi's, since he also works with the animal theme on a large scale. Of course, in the case of Fuentes, the interaction between the public and work of art is even broader because the pieces appropriate parts of the urban space.
Masi's discourse is closely attached to the environment; the artist declares himself as a faithful follower of the animalist trend in sculptural art. Animals as an artistic theme date back to the first representations of cave art and later became one of the most recurrent themes for artists from Greece, Rome, China and Egypt.
The exhibition is also a tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It acts as a call to attention to biodiversity and conservation. It’s a mutual agreement between Albert II, Prince of Monaco, and our Commander Fidel Castro, to promote cultural exchange between the two countries. This exhibition acts as a call to attention to care for the environment.
Masi's predilection for cats and polar bears can be seen in this exhibit. Beauty as purpose, as a physical externalization of life that animates the body and the symmetry in animal species are the themes that motivate his creative work.
The sculptor is overwhelmed with emotion when capturing animal nature. The figures, without being presented in a hyper-realistic style, do follow the line of realistic imagination. For Masi, details are not important, but rather the movement that reveals the strength and energy contained in the body and which is visible through shape.
His discourse, if seductive due to its visual elegance and unique beauty, in which warm shades alternate with platinum or black figures, suggests intimacy, a feeling accentuated by the curatorial work. Each sculpture, placed on its own pedestal, has its place. This arrangement not only favors the enjoyment of each piece individually without suffering competition with another, but also creating its own space for each figure presents them to us linked to a familiar, daily environment.
The exhibition is divided into five themes: Animales de la banquisa (animals of the ice flows), Felinos del mundo (cats of the world), Animales de África (animals of Africa), Animales de Europa (animals of Europe) and Y en gigantesco (giant-sized). Presenting animals in the position they adopt in their natural habitat is a common characteristic in Masi’s work. Animals are presented as they behave in their real environment. Also through them, moods or behaviors that are characteristic of human beings are transmitted, which can be appreciated in “Melancolía,” a piece in the first series.
Espera, no te apures (wait, don’t hurry) stands out among figures in Felinos del mundo. It illustrates sex play between two lions. The same occurs with Gran maternidad (great motherhood) from Animales de África, where the mother guides her cubs in their first steps. Chimwamwa is a very attractive piece from Animales de Europa, not only because it immediately attracts attention due to the use of a warm shade, red, but also because the title is a paraphrase of chihuahua and the artist makes reference to the ego that owners of this pedigree dog usually have. There’s a saying that states a dog reveals much about its owner; which seems to have been Masi’s basis for designing the sculpture.
Y en gigantesco, the last series, includes very well-done pieces like Rock My Baby, where a bear adopts an acrobatic position giving the idea of a dance, and Cigarrillours-cigarilloso, a metal piece honoring the Habano cigar, contracting the French and Spanish words for cigar and bear. This sculpture was made especially for this exhibition in tribute to Cuba through one of its most internationally recognized products.
Masi’s work reveals playfulness; words are modified to generate another allusion, which gives them a new meaning and changes the perception we usually have of objects and animals. The artist manages to make the public look at the animals with a fresh perspective. At the same time, the theme serves to reveal human behavior. Criticism isn’t necessary; Masi only shows how superior beings aren’t really so when they repeat in social and everyday life primary and narcissistic attitudes like any other animal.
Pascal Masi’s figures are an example of the advances that new techniques have provided sculpture. They are an invitation to join the modernization not only of this art form, but also the renewal of nature. Masi sculpts the breath of life and makes it visible through shapes. They say sculpture is the Cinderella of the arts. Will that be true? Pascal Masi has proven otherwise.
Translated by Xelcis A. Presno
Revised by CF Ray