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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
Washington, DC. 1999
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.