Hoyle Mundus Imaginalis
Essay by Pamela Hoyle for Vicente Pascual Rodrigo Mundus Imaginalis" exhibition catalogue,
Global Fine Art at DFI International, Washington DC, 2002
creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making,
and the processes of all art are creative;
and the masters of Arts are all poets or makers." Plato, Symposium
imagery and the classical Latin titles he gives to his work acknowledge
a contemporary sensibility that is thoroughly rooted in the ancients.
While some may admire his paintings for their decorative value alone,
a deeper look provides the viewer with insights that link the work
in the present exhibition with the thoughts of Henri Corbin and
his Neoplatonic predecessors. Pascuals approach to his work
combines intellect with spirit, and one cannot underestimate the
importance of both literature and philosophy upon his painting.
Before discussing the
nature of his current imagery, it is important to consider the artists
background. At the age of 14, Pascual began his study of fine art
at the Escuela de Artes in his home city of Zaragoza, Spain, and
traveled to Barcelona to study at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. He
was given his first solo show two years later at the Galeria Atenas
in Zaragoza. From 1970 to 1988, he worked with Angel Pascual Rodrigo
in the two-man collective, La
Hermandad Pictorica. From 1970 to 1974, they worked on installations
and paintings in a style close to Pop but with a social agenda.
1974 and 1975, Pascual traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
Rajhastan, he studied the diverse arts and philosophies of India,
which left an indelible mark on his view of all existence. After
his return to Spain in 1975, he became acquainted with the writings
of Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and Seyyed Hussein Nasr.
His mindset as an artist was changed irrevocably by his travels,
both physical and mental, in the mid 70s, and his art, as a result,
underwent a fundamental internal change: "Social-Art can have
a place in art, but it should be noticed that Social-Art functions
as applied-art, an application of art as peripheral as advertisement-art.
What could be easier than to represent contemporary life, a life
that tomorrow will not be contemporary anymore." (1)
of the mainstreams of contemporary art, after 1975 Pascual championed
a movement that advocated a return to an intellectually conceived,
filled with symbolism. The artists he studied during this period
were the German Romantics, Japanese Ukiyo-e artists, and mid 20th
century Western painters, such as Giorgio Morandi and Mark Rothko.
1980 Pascual moved his studio to Campanet, Mallorca, where he stayed
until 1992, when he came to live in the United States. After settling
in Bloomington, Indiana, his art underwent a radical external change;
he reduced forms to a basic
geometry moving toward the essentialist conception of Agnes
Martin's contemplative, transcendent grids.
course, our souls cannot be unaware of the society in which they
exist, but the artist cannot reduce his intellectual horizon to
the external plane of existence
Every movement, every act
in life, is necessarily subjected to limits such as time or space.
In the same way, Art is not an exception and has been always produced
under restrictions; but those restrictions only limit the manifestation
of creativity in those who are not artists. Canons, rules or meditative
preparation, such as fasting, have been normally a close companion
of every Art manifestation. In my case, I begin my work establishing
the intellectual coordinates, the concept, through rigorous geometry
whereupon I can work in freedom, without hesitation." (1)
his own admission Pascual approaches the act of painting as one
might interact with The Beloved, and this revelation provides a
key to his work. By describing the creation of art as an act of
love, replete with all the levels of meaning inherent in that act,
he acknowledges his relationship with his partner in lovemaking,
not as an extension of personal unconsciousness but as an experience
at the level of the Platonic archetype. Although Pascual allied
himself with the 19th century Symbolists in his imaginary landscapes,
his current work is neither symbolic in the universal sense, nor
allegorical, as it goes beyond those, merely rational modes of expression.
grasp Vicente Pascuals work the viewer, must experience it,
not just consider it. We must be with it. Pascual, without being
obvious or heavy handed, relies on the viewer to complete the work
of art. By bringing personal belief systems, experience and energy
to a discovery of Pascuals primordial imagery, the viewer
completes the artists work. In other words, the viewer must
be with the work to experience simultaneously both the instant and
the eternity embodied in the work, as one must be with The Beloved
to experience the act of love.
this sounds heavy-duty, it is. Pascuals work is as profound,
and as natural, as being. It is also deeply rooted in Neoplatonism,
a philosophy that advocates an infinite, unknowable, perfect One
as the ultimate reality of the universe. From this One emanates
nous (pure intelligence), which generates the world soul, the creative
activity that engenders the lesser souls of human beings.
world soul, however, because it is intermediate between the nous
and the material world, has the option either of preserving its
integrity and perfection or becoming sensual and corrupt. The same
choice is open to each of the lesser souls. Each soul has the choice
of pursuing either independence, which results in a sensual and
corrupt existence, or unity with the fountainhead of its being,
which results in an all-pervading ecstasy. Neoplatonism is characterized
by an opposition between the spiritual and the physical; by the
metaphysical idea of mediatorsthe nous and the world soulthat
transmit divine power from the One to the many
touching on the Neoplatonic content of Pascuals work and the
influence of Henri Corbins theosophy upon that content, it
is important to examine the physical manifestation of those ideas
in the paintings themselves.
modulation of color in the series of paintings begun in 2001 may
at first glance seem akin to the way Rothko laid his color down
in transparent layers. While the Spaniard uses transparent layering
to build his fields of color, close examination of works in both
the Imago Mundi series and the Circles/Cycles
series reveals that Pascuals use of color and texture possesses
a variety, depth and richness neither achieved, nor sought by Rothko.
An examination of "Imago Mundi XIX", displayed in raking
light, reveals a drama of texture and subtle variations in color
that supports the dialog between the dark circle and the light circle
which are the protagonists in the painting.
the most of the paintings in the Imago
Mundi series Pascual lays down color and texture and scrapes
it away only to lay down another transparent layer. In this way
he incorporates the texture of the canvas into the overall texture
of the work, but in the large red triptych, entitled Imago Mundi
IX, he revisits the brighter color scheme and impastoed textures
used in his earlier, more elaborate work including the Imago
Terrae series of 1999 and his individualized works such as "De
Revolutionibus" and "Imitatio" of 1998.
particularized themes explored in 1998 and 1999 relate to mythological
concepts such as the minotaurs labyrinth and to imagery associated
with nomadic peoples, including Native Americans. (3) The kaleidoscopic
imagery present in Imitatio (1998), "Center Wheel" (1996)
and "Omens" (1996) relates to pictographic rugs and paintings
on animal hides, and Pascuals work often during
this period incorporates the sunburnt palette of his sources.
get from the particularized themes of the late 1990s to the minimal,
cosmic image building of his present work, Pascual has extracted
archetypal imagery from the narrative pictorial tradition of peoples
close to the earth, distilling and redistilling the forms to their
absolute essence. He considers image making a form of alchemy (4)
and his working method a variation on the alchemical method of "solve
et coagula." (5)
the disks he painted in the late 90s were suns, labyrinths, wheels,
etc., the circular forms of the past year have superseded their
prior incarnations. The artist says of these archetypal forms "Simple
forms such as the circle cant help but to convey what a circle
conveys as long as its elaboration does not betray its content.
But I would like to point out that when the man of symbolist mentality
looks at a circle he never would consider it as symbol of the Sun
for instance- but as an icon of that same thing that is reflected
by the Sun. References related to the same level of existence are
allegories not symbols, and I have not any interest in allegory."
changing from individually titled works to series of paintings best
understood by being viewed in the context of each other, Pascual
has gradually made real the philosophical teachings that he began
to embrace a quarter of a century ago. His passionate, direct approach
to the essence of being views the circle simultaneously as both
a point and a container of all things, a metaphysical embodiment
for the way we experience reality. While his Imago Terrae
(literally Image of the Earth) paintings exhibited their kinship
with earthbound symbols, his work in the Imago Mundi (literally
Image of the World) series grapples with realities that are not
quite so tangible. Applying alchemy as a metaphor for Platonic enlightenment,
the artist uses his materials to solve et coagula, so his work becomes
a meditative conduit for the viewer to become enlightened. His is
no longer a representation of the shadows of Platos cave;
it has become metaphysical poetry, the Mundus Imaginalis, (7) an
equivalence serving as the mediator between the viewer and the ultimate
Hoyle, February 2002
1 Vicente Pascual made
these statements in a email to the author on January 9, 2002.
2 The Encarta® Desk Encyclopedia Copyright © & 1998
Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
3 Pascual had been preoccupied with the art of nomadic peoples from
all over the world from 1993 to 1997.
4 Briefly, alchemy, the forbearer of modern chemistry, originated
in the Aristotelian philosophy that all things strive for perfection.
Originally alchemists believed that gold was the most perfect substance
and that it was composed of the perfect balance of the four basic
elements: earth, air, fire and water. In medieval times this belief
was extended to the idea that discovery of a substance, the philosophers
stone (later named alkahest, the prime element, by Paracelcus) capable
of transmuting base metals into gold.
5 Literally, set free the agent of coagulation.
6 Pascual, email to the author, January 9, 2002.
7 See Henri Corbin, Mundus
Imaginalis, 1964, for an extensive explanation of Mundus Imaglnalis.
||Pamela Hoyle is an independent curator living in New York.
Her published exhibition catalogs, reviews and articles cover a range of topics from 19th century photography to 21st century painting and printmaking.
She has been the director of
Washington Printmakers Gallery and Global Fine Art in Washington DC.