About Irene Pascual paintings,
Text written by Art theorist Xavier Anthich
AGAINST THE BLINDNESS
Against the Blindness. The protagonist of Saramago’s novel Blindness is unexpectedly struck blind. Suddenly and for no phisiological reason.
While he is sitting in his car waiting for traffic lights to change, he suddenly ceases to see everything before him. His face becomes visibly distraugnt with anguish, his only reaction. Freud said that the fear of becoming blind is one humankind’s oldest fears and now tat it has happened to Saramago’s protagonist, he feels frightened. “With a rapid movement”, we are told, “what was in sight had disappeared”. And then the vertiginous fesco of images vanished, leaving in their wake an immensely white sea, indistinguishably white, like a colurless day whose tremendous brightness is radically identical to the darkest hours of night. But hadn’t we always imagined blindness as being black? What does it matter: the terrifying epidemic of blindness spread thorughout the planet which Saramago speaks to us of leaves humanity condemned to a milky whiteness. A blindness full of light, but where nothing can be seen. And this whiteness is the image of nothingness. An emptiness void of things and images.
The icon of blindness, a metaphor for the loss of reality, which has already become distant. Maybe it is not surprising that, for the same reasons as Saramago, Herman Melville spoke to us in his incommensurable novel Moby Dick of the whiteness of the whale, and felt obliged to justify the secular terror caused by white, a colour wich, all our preconeptions, is paradoxically associated with purity and innocence. The terror of white. Pure blindness.
It could be said since time immemorial there has been a class of painting wich has battled against white –against the horror of indistinctness, against blindness. Irene Pascual’s work belongs to this documented class, injured in the battle against blindness through the lenguage of colour. A class of painting which seeks the delirium of vision through the vocabulary of chromatic shapes. One which celebrates the feast of the senses, and above all, the visible sense, the visible imaginary, through the explosion of meanings which arise from painting’s pure substance –colour.
A celebration wich is not exempt from pain, as Rembrandt already demonstrated. For Rembrandt colours decayed, in an almost biological process comparable to what happens to our skin as we grow old, when he layered them on the many faces depicted in his self portraits throughout his tortuous life.
This hasn’t always been the case, however. Back in 1790, Kant, the great theorist of aesthetic modernity and son of an Enlightenment geographicallly situated within the confines of what we now know as Europe, wrote that the beauty of art lies principally in form and not in colour. He considered that colour, in that it addresses the senses (who better to talk about colour than the eye tant sees it?), detracts from the aesthetic experience of what we should be looking for, an experience of knowledge. Kant considered that colour in painting was expendable, unlike form, which was the essential element. He was convinced that something which was exclusively subjet to the senses could not be the key to art. However, for those of us who are not only looking for beauty in art, and who still hope for knowledge, however precarious it may seem, and however much harm it may cause us, colour is an essential element.
Because despite Kant’s thinking, colour is still, and perhaps now more than ever, the flesh of painting. It is probably expendable, but its absence would leave painting without its very flesh. What is certain in any case is that Irene Pascual cannot do without it, and what is more she has made both colour and its language the most important parts of the grammar which she has been moulding on canvas for some years now to create the contents of search for artistic knowledge in the shape of a game. Because this game, as Kant was well aware, is a very serious matter; it has to do with our experiences, it lies between seeing and thinking, speaking and feeling, at an intersection of so many things like pain and love, memory and hope, and even the possibility of comunication -communication which is freely born of the desire to speak through forms. And this is an old word of wisdom that Irene Pascual puts into practice when she engages with her canvas to speak, even if what she wants to say cannot be entirelly translated into words, because she is expressing herself in a language which is, like colour, the language of flesh.
Back in ancient Greece, Aristotle had already recognised that sight was the most precious of all our senses to us – it improves our knowledge and shows us more differences, he said. Thanks to sight, we are no longer held back from almost touching infinity. All things are presented to us in their infinite diversity, their unlimited combinations. And, through the world’s wealth of shapes and colours, our small and meagre existence opens up to an ulimited abyss of meanings. Meanings that already exist, and potential meanings. This is the power of the imaginary, which does not forsake the flesh of vision, colour. This is the power which Irene Pascual’s painting wields over these meanings; it is an almost delirious battle against blindness. Delirious because it transports vision to the explosion point of routine, everyday vision: a point where what our vision shows us is not the world as we know it, but a new formulation of shapes which appeal to our feelings -the heart of experience.
It may be true that in order to see the world and comprehend it as a paradox, it is necessary to break down our familiarity with it. The vision of Irene Pascual’s painting, which is born of the imaginary searching among the ruins of visiblity for the flesh of painting, is the world expressed in another way. Her way, most certainly. Because there is no painting if it is not accompanied by the need to reexpress the world, not to confirm it but to contradict it, trhough new shapes and combinations of colours, which are, as we have already mentioned, the flesh of the world, just as thy are the flesh of painting. It is not surprising, then that when Irene Pascual speaks of her painting, she claims a lineage rooted in romanticism. I dare say a type of romanticism which throughout the 19th century explored the communicative and expressive power of colour, the force of a truth capable of abandoning the line, the paradigmatic intellecutal component of European art.
The option of colour as primitive vocabulary, is not just an artistic option –it is an option which has to do with flesh and skin, with a feeling that we do not only want to be intellectual. It is an option of artistic life. Yet again, a language against blindness. That place where perhaps words remain unspoken in order to appeal to a meaning which precedes them. Maybe this is what it is all about: against blindness, to such an extent where words fall silent. A form of vision which appeals to a feeling which only colour can speak. Maybe this is the reason behind the enigmatic artistic strength of Irene Pascual’s canvases, canvases which leave us speechless because they demand from us a loquacity which precedes words. Or succeeds them, when fortunately these fall silent.
It is not without relevance that I would like to highlight a dimension of resistance in the work of an artist as young as Irene Pascual. When, all around us, we are tired of voices wich have been proclaiming the death of painting for over a century now, Irene Pascual finds its inevitable language in a type of painting which stains and dirties, leaving a whole trail of smells in its wake. In her work with paint and colours, Irene Pascual seems to celebrate what Merleau-Ponty called “the enigma of visiblity”: that point of interchange between the body of the artist and his work of art, which inevitably leads to an interchange between work of art and the body of its observer.
All of the dimensions peculiar to the grammar of Irene Pascual’s work –quality, light, colour, depth, space, combinations, shapes_awaken an echo within our bodies, because it is our bodies which receive these dimensions and it is within our bodies that they take on life. And, trhough this interchange of meanings, the visible world which Irene Pascual’s painting offers us rewrites a whole book of new meaninngs within us, like an imaginary tatoo.
“Seeing”, as Merleau-Ponty also deduced, is a way of keeping us away from ourselves in order to allow these new meanings offered by what we see to settle in. Seeing in order to keep us away from ourselves –maybe tyhis is what it is about. Seeing to lose. And seeing to get lost. Like the palyer who, the more he loses, the more he plays. The only possible form of consolation, probably. Or maybe the only one we have at hand, poor Alexei Ivanovich. Perhaps someone will ask, as we probably always should, what Irene Pascual’s paintings mean. And once again, we will have to recall the imaginary dialogue between Raymonde Isidore and Picasso. Isidore, who had been rechristened Picassiette, confessed that the meaning of his works of art escaped him. And Picasso, in due reciprocity, told him that he didn’t know what his paintings meant either, and went on to add “If I Knew, it would be the end of me”. This is the meaning which Irene Pascual’s paintings exert: a meaning which, precisely because it escapes us, is a meaning which has no end. A meaning which allows us, in our individual battles against the blindness, to not come to an end. This is no small matter: to celebrate the delirium of vision through Irene Pascual’s paintings. To bring nothing to an end. To not come to an end.
Xavier Antich, 2003