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vicente pascual artwork
Essay by William Wroth for Vicente Pascual's Simbolos exhibition catalogue
Galería Eude, Barcelona, 1998

One steps into the word of archetypes when viewing the paintings of Vicente Pascual. Archetypes, the timeless forms beyond the world of appearances, may be intuited by the artist who is also a metaphysician. Artists today strive for originality, to be outside current fashion, new, fresh, exciting. Vicente Pascual's originality comes from his ardent desire not to be original but rather to find the Origin of things, to find their true meaning.

But how are we to see the Unseen, to know the Unknowable? The possibility exists through symbolism; symbols are material forms which on the plane of the soul and the senses reproduce the archetypes. In Pascual's paintings one steps into the world of forms at the most basic level: the movement of the cosmos, manifestation of phenomena and reintegration of phenomena with their ultimate Source. The process goes on continually in all things great and small. As Hermes: "That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below." Pascual is concerned with the reciprocity between "above" and "below." The symbol is both image and process: the cosmos continually renewing itself, the breathing out and in of Brahma, which creates and destroys the world. The Hermetic formula applies both to the world and to the person, for symbols are not only images of unseen realities, but above all they are a means for approaching the Sacred. The human being is a microcosm in which the whole universe and the breathing out and in of Brahma are reflected. Thus the paintings we see before us depict the cosmic dance which simultaneously takes place within the human soul. They are vitally concerned with our final ends.

To arrive at these paintings has been a life's work for Vicente Pascual. He began to paint at the end of the 1960s. In 1976 after traveling in the Orient for several months, he discovered the writings of the traditionalists, Rene Guenon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and Frithjof Schuon who expounded the idea that truth is one, it is universal, and that art must reflect the truth. This perspective completely changed his views of making of art. Coming to the United States in 1992 he began to explore the universal archetypes behind revealed forms, drawing inspiration from ancient artistic traditions such as the Islamic and Romanesque, and from the cultures of Polynesia, the Tuaregs of North Africa, and others whose expressions are still imbued with symbolism. Vicente Pascual's progress in the making of art may be summed up by paraphrasing the saying of Li Liweng: "First he looked at the hills in the painting, now he looks at the painting in the hills."

At this time Pascual discovered the ideational process of universal manifestation as exemplified in geometric, proportional and color symbolism. Here he has faced the question of the primal duality of manifestation: the polar opposition of yin and yang, feminine and masculine, through which the world and the soul are created, maintained, and reabsorbed into Non-duality. The sacred by definition is the realm of the inexpressible. Words falter here, the best approach is through symbols which carry with them not only conceptual wisdom, but radiance, baraka as the Moslems express it, of the other world. These are not merely abstract ideas pictorially depicted, but living forms which through their primordiality resound with the deepest intuitions in our souls. Simple forms, restrained palette, strict proportions: paradoxically the sobriety and rigor of the paintings proclaims their joyful flight to freedom.

In a vision the Oglala medicine man Black Elk learned of the red road which goes from north to south, "the road of good and on it shall your nation walk." And the black road which goes from the west to the east, "a fearful road, a road of troubles and of war. On this also you shall walk, and from it you shall have the power to destroy a people's foes." Where the two roads meet is the center; here the sacred branch shall flower, insuring the spiritual prosperity of the people who form a circle, an unbroken hoop: "I looked down and saw it lying like a hoop of peoples, and in the center bloomed the holy stick that was a tree, and where it stood there crossed two roads, a red one and a black." The red road is the ascending path: "Behold the circle of the nation's hoop, for it is holy, being endless... Now they shall break camp and go forth upon the red road, and your Grandfathers shall walk with them... Behold a good nation walking in a sacred manner in a good land." Vicente Pascual's paintings depict this process, this tension between the vertical and the horizontal, between creation and reintegration.

William Wroth
Bloomington, Indiana, 1998


William Wroth is senior editor for a new series of republications by World Wisdom of the works of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. Mr. Wroth was Curator of the Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center from 1976 to 1983. Since that time he has served as guest curator for exhibitions at the Taylor Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the American Craft Museum, St. Louis Art Museum and other institutions. He is the author and editor of numerous works on Hispanic and Indian arts, including "Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico" (1982), "Images of Penance, Images of Mercy: Southwestern Santos in the Late Nineteenth Century" (1991), "The Mexican Sarape: A History" (1999), and "Ute Indian Arts and Culture from Prehistory to the New Millennium" (2000).


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.copyright William Wroth 1998