The beauty of the human figure was the course of inspiration in traditional Greek sculpture, represented in a way never seen before. These statues, idealizing and glorifying the naked human body, have become some of the most recognized pieces of art ever created by any civilization. This idea of beauty that we have inherited from the Roman and Greek classics has been reflected, represented and distributed throughout the centuries via copies in plaster of these old Greco-Roman sculptures.
The proportion, balance and perfection they represented have been a source of study and inspiration. For centuries, numerous artists in all the art schools of the West -with Mateo Maté amongst them- have been scholed with these plaster reproductions.
Maté had drawn these figures hundreds of times during his training as an artist in the School of Arts and Crafts and the Faculty of Fine Arts in Madrid. He knew every curve of their anatomy when he entered the workshops of the Royal Academy of San Fernando where the reproductions and molds obtained from classical Greek and Roman figures are preserved. “It is, in a way, here where this genetic code is kept of the ideal human form, inherited from classical antiquity. In these workshops I have altered and modified these ideals in order to adapt them to a new diffused and dispersed reality “ Maté tells us.
The idealized perfection of the human body in antiquity gave rise to the concept of ‘canon’, which comes from the Greek word κανών (rule). The notion of canon is not an exclusive competence of beauty, it also affects the rules, thus speaking of religious, moral and legal canons...
Mateo Maté invites us to reflect upon the current canon of beauty that we have inherited, opposing it with the canon as a normative system, through copies or reproductions of figures inspired by the classical Greek statuary which have undergone a mutation. Maté uses transgression and irony, provokes a bewilderment within the spectators, causing them to question their own ideals of harmony and proportion. Using a somewhat disturbing encounter, a skilful symbiosis of the ancient world and the philosophy of the modern, he adapts the millennial canons to a new social reality, in which he introduces transsexuality or non-Western traits into classical statuary.
Adapting these figures with slight changes, the Apollinus of Praxiteles, transformed into Apolina, finally releases the evident femininity that it contained for centuries. The same happens to the Child of the Thorn, revealing an ambiguous androgynousity whilst the Athletic Discóbolo, historically associated with a symbol of the supremacy of the white race, has been endowed with traits of the black race, recognizing its undisputed superiority in disciplines of the sport world.
“To understand oneself is to understand others and for this we need to know the living canons at any moment, whether legal, moral, religious or aesthetic”, concludes the artist.