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Essay by Patrick Laudee for Vicente Pascual
Romanica Similiter Exhibition Catalogue
Monasterio Rómanico de Veruela, Spain, 1999

"... For us who are on earth, these terrestrial things come first to our knowledge,
and that is why they seem to us to be real, while celestial things are only images;
but in fact it is the celestial that is real, and the terrestrial is but an image of it.
The terrestrial passes away and the eternal remains forever."
Rupert of Deutz, XII century.

There are at least three main ways of looking at the world of visual shapes and colors. One consists in perceiving them as an endless field of lines and hues through which we expansively multiply our sensory experiences in a seemingly fulfilling or entertaining manner. This is the veneer of shimmering phenomena to which the eye passively abandons itself. No center, no profundity, but a deceiving feeling of liberation bordering on chaos and nothingness. To this centrifugal and dilapidating tendency, a hardened and artificially systematic reason will oppose the vain structures of its painstaking and fastidious order. As the swinging of a pendulum, contemporary art tends to oscillate between these apparent opposites.

There is however a third way, that reconciles the joy of creating with the need for an ordering principle. It is neither sensualist nor rationalistic although being both intellective and deeply aesthetic; it finds its archetypical sources of inspiration in the treasures of sacred arts and folklore, from all over the world. This art is keen on pointing at the essence beyond the form while making the latter a messenger of the former, thus suggesting the message of elevation and depth that spiritually intelligible forms always imply: art as a way of remembering, in the Platonic sense of a recollection of archetypes. Such is Vicente Pascual's understanding of painting.

The profound connection between art and memory is illustrated by the fact that, as St. Augustine reminds us, "it was fabled that the Muses were the daughters of Jupiter and Memory" (De Ordine, XV). In its essence, remembering is an act of return to the center, the heart, in Latin recordare (cor = heart). It is also a flying upward, beyond what is not fully worthy of filling our heart, in Greek anamnesis (ana = upward). Painting should interiorize and elevate, as it should also proceeds from an interiorization and an elevation. As Frithjof Schuon wrote: "Art is an exteriorization in view of interiorization." Everything starts from the center as an allusion to what is always now and everywhere here. Everything brings us back to this center that is like the inner depth of the totality, the hidden principle of the whole that also encompasses the whole. Vicente Pascual's visions are always centered, whether in the form of the universal eye, the egg of the world, the cross, or the invisible but necessary principle of alternance and irradiation.

That which is within is also above: it is why in some of Pascual's paintings the heart is also a reversed mountain. For that very reason, the centripetal vision may be replaced or complemented by an elevation, a sense of transcendence as well as of hierarchy. Here again the unity of the whole is present: as above as below. Reverse directions, hourglass, Jacob's ladder: symbols of a transforming unity through descent and ascent along the axis of transcendence. "This world is an image of That, and vice versa." (Aitariya Brahmana, VIII.2), the world is a mirror of the above, and reverse analogy is the law that connects the two realms: similiter.

Similiter, for there is no true originality but that which stems from resemblance with the Origin. True artistic production as well as aesthetic contemplation consist in emptying oneself in order to be receptive to this Origin. That is the inner poverty which is the spiritual fragrance of the biblical world and which is so directly reflected in early medieval art. Contemplative soberty and inwardness: these Romanesque traits are often to be found in Pascual's treatment of forms and colors. The geometric simplicity of forms bears no trace of a dramatic effort to conquer the ineffable. In an analogous way, there is a subdued joy in colors: warm as a sun-burnt earth, half-desertic half-solar, set somewhere in between the glory of the sun and the humility of the earth. As a fire burning in the empty cave of the heart. Here spirituality is not a dynamic tension but a repose in the laws and correspondences of being. There is something profoundly intellectual in this geometric orientation and contemplative repose into being, something akin to the still and interiorizing glow of Romanesque. It is as if beauty were guarded against its dilapidating and individualizing deviations by the purity of rigor. There is much restraint in this art that seems to concede to manifestation just as much as it can bear without betraying the fullness of the Void from which it proceeds: "Certainly no reproach can rightly be brought against this world save only that it is not That." (Plotinus, Enneads, V,8,8)

The affinity of Pascual's art with the ornamental works of nomadic people -whether they be North American Indians, Mongols or Bedouins- cannot escape our eye. It no doubt reflects a sense of transientness, testifying to the provisional character of visual forms. There is no concern here for a figurative representation that would set forms into some kind of independence and stability, a life of their own so to speak.

Abstraction must therefore not be understood as a liberation from the constraints of representation but as an allusion to archetypes. It appears that Pascual has extracted the quintessence of the message of the arts of the nomads, its primordiality, to make it the centerpiece of his aesthetic concept. In the same way, far from confining himself to follow artistic concepts from the past, Vicente Pascual has splendidly succeeded in making his art an innovative expression of the perennial principles that are at the core of the Romanesque.

Patrick Laude, Georgetown University
Washington, DC. 1999

Patrick Laude was born in 1958 in Lannemezan, France. His academic career took him to the United States where he obtained a PhD in French literature in 1985, specializing in poetry and mystical literature. Patrick Laude is the author of numerous articles and several books dealing with the relationship between mysticism, symbolism and literature. His works include Approches du Quiétisme (Tübingen, 1992), Massignon intérieur (L'Age d'Homme, Paris-Lausanne, 2001), The Way of Poetry (Oneonta Philosophy Studies, New York, 2001) and, as co-editor, Dossier H Frithjof Schuon (L'Age d'Homme,Paris-Lausanne, 2001).
He has been on the Faculty of Georgetown University, in Washington DC, since 1991.

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