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Essay by Seyyed Hossein Nasr for Vicente Pascual "IN ILLO TEMPORE" exhibition catalogue at the
Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, Washington DC, 2003

Vicente Pascual Rodrigo was brought up and educated in an area of Spain which was for centuries witness to the harmonious presence of Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures. As he matured, he realized that the truth was universal and he thereby adopted a universalist perspective rooted in the perennial wisdom to be found throughout the ages in various sacred traditions. He also realized that only in the modern world have these perennial truths been denied, being replaced by all too human fashions of thought and art marked by temporality and transience. His mind and soul therefore took flight into the sacred spaces of various religious universes and his art sought to bring that which is beyond temporality into the temporal domain.

We might ask with Vicente Pascual, "what is art?" In the deepest sense art is life itself lived and acted according to principles. It is also to make and create correctly not on the basis of individual psychological elements and factors, but according to intelligible principles in the Platonic sense that transcend temporality and the individual realm. It is to use symbols, as traditionally understood, namely as reflections of higher orders of reality in the physical world and therefore ladders to those higher worlds, and not remain satisfied with the use of allegory which is simply humanly constructed and horizontal.

Today we live in a world which has rejected this perennial philosophy of art and therefore poses the greatest challenge to artists who still seek to present the eternal and the atmporal in their art. Vicente Pascual is among that rare group of contemporary Western artists who have accepted this challenge. He has used primordial symbols and has returned to the simplicity of primal forms to integrate multiplicity into unity. When one views his canvasses, one experiences the presence of unity in the manifold and the timeless in what is temporal. His paintings also represent a harmonious wedding between rigor and freedom like the cosmos itself in which one observes the presence of rigor, of geometry and of laws combined with the freedom and exuberance of life and its transformations.

Vicente Pascual is a contemporary artist without being modern. He lives in our times, yet creates an art that is atemporal. For him as for tradition artists of old, all human activities can become art in the deepest sense and also become means of knowing oneself and ultimately knowing that truth which transcend the human order. Being who he is, he has faced many difficulties in the present day artistic scene. Those who hold the modernistic view of art have realized that he stands apart from them and belongs to another category of artists. He has experienced all the oppositions and the constraints which a traditional artist faces in today's world. And yet he has refused to sacrifice his principles and continues to produce works which seek to reflect non-temporal realities in the matrix of time and space. For that very reason his paintings are worthy of great attention for they are concerned with truths which it is of the utmost significance for men and women to re-discover and experience in this day and age marked by the turning away from perennial wisdom and instead seeking evanescent shadows which are claimed to be of great significance because they define "the times" but which in fact, are as passing and transient as the water of the river of time which we experience briefly at different moments of our earthly life.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Bethesda, 2003

Born in Tehran in 1933, Seyyed Hossein Nasr received his education in Iran and the United States.
He returned to Iran in 1958 where he served as Dean of the Faculty of Letters and Chancellor of Aryamehr University. He also founded the Iranian Academy of Philosophy and served as its first president. Since 1984, Dr. Nasr has been University Professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and President of the Foundation for Traditional Studies. Professor Nasr has written over twenty-five books including Man and Nature: the Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (Kazi Publications, 1998), Religion and the Order of Nature (Oxford, 1996) and Islamic Art and Spirituality (SUNY, 1987.)

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copyright Seyyed Hossein Nasr 2003