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Costa Rica Art: Eyes of the Soul

Born in 1951 in the port town of Puntarenas, Hernán Pérez grew up in a maritime environment full of rich imagery. As a child, he scribbled fishing boats, waves smashing against cliffs, the beach, shells, seagulls and images of the estuary and mangroves.

Not a day went by when Pérez was not drawing. In Puntarenas there were no places to buy art supplies, but he began using house paint and items he could make himself. He experimented with masonry pigments, mixing them with materials such as ground coal, scraped chalk, pulverized shells, limestone and pieces of tile and brick. Over the years, he learned to use color to capture the tones and nuances of fishing boats and large ships.

His father worked as a jeweler, using colorful turquoise, onyx, amber and other gemstones. Pérez began to develop a taste for polished surfaces, which is exemplified in the detail and technical sophistication of his paintings. He has memories of his grandmother decorating “guacales” or gourds, with carvings. The designs are similar to the complex artistic styles of the local indigenous peoples of the Boruca region, and have made their way into Pérez’s own acrylic and oil works. 

At 18, he moved to San José with his family and started to paint the rugged landscape of the suburbs. He painted cottages clustered and staggered with an almost cubist perspective and plenty of detail. He was only working with watercolors at the time, but eventually he entered the workshop of the Austrian painter Herbert Birkner, who taught him the art of enameling on copper and numerous other techniques, including acrylic, chalk pastel and egg tempera painting on porcelain.

With a strong spiritual connection to the earth, and living in a country with fascinating ecology, Pérez has become convinced that his art must have a relation to the environment that shapes and molds us. Today, trees, bromeliads, flowers, vines, birds, waterfalls, frogs, butterflies and the heavenly world are depicted in his paintings to demonstrate the world his grandparents lived in.

The public is invited to meet Pérez at the opening of “Eyes of the Soul” on Saturday, June 16, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery. The gallery is 5 kilometers west of the Liberia Airport (towards the beaches).

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