|ARTISTS EXHIBITIONS EVENTS CONTACT|
|Rafael (Rafa) Fernández|
Throughout his sixty years as an artist, Rafa Fernández has done much to promote the Central American arts. He painted murals and set up outdoor exhibitions in the streets of San José in an effort to make his work more accessible. He participated as a consultant and a juror for many Central American art festivals and competitions. He was the founder of the Parque de la Expresión and the Museo de la Miniatura in Costa Rica.
Rafael Ángel Fernández Piedra was born in San José in 1935. In 1950, at the age of fifteen, he began his studies at La Casa del Artista. He took classes from Teodorico Quirós, Paco Amighetti, Lucio Ranucci, Carlos Salazar, and Dinorah Bolandi.
In 1954, Fernández showed his work for the first time at the Teatro Nacional in San José. Three years later, he had his first individual exhibition at the Teatro Arlequín in San José. In 1958, he went to Nicaragua to study with Rodrigo Peñalba at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (ENBA) in Managua. At an art festival in 1961 organized by Grupo Ocho (a collective of eight abstract artists), he met one of the group’s founders, Manuel de la Cruz González. De la Cruz invited Fernández to join his workshop, and that led him to “explore a kind of Surrealism.”
In 1968, Fernández was awarded a scholarship to study at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. In Madrid, he discovered the work of Francisco de Goya. He also became increasingly interested in literature based on fantasy. In 1971, he had his first show in the United States, at the Knox & Campbell Galleries in Arizona. Two years later, he exhibited at the Organization of American States’ museum (the AMA, Art Museum of the Americas) in Washington, D.C.
During the 1970’s, Fernández took a turn toward Surrealism, experimenting with fantasy in his figurative works.
According to art critic Klaus Steinmetz, his work in the 1970s was his most interesting. Indeed, he is considered by many to be the most important Costa Rican artist of that time. In 1976, Fernández studied engraving and lithography at the Centro Regional de Estudios Especializados en Artes Gráficas in Costa Rica. Fernández’s subjects are almost always women. But in 1978, his use of color changed, becoming more and more vivid, and his paintings became more mysterious and dramatic.
Fernández lived in Spain in 1985, exhibiting around Madrid and Barcelona. In 1987, he showed his work at the United Nations in Washington, D.C. The exhibit caused a commotion when one appalled spectator, reportedly overcome with emotion, destroyed one of his paintings.
In the 90’s, he ventured into landscapes. These were highly atmospheric, retaining the female figure as the protagonist. He sometimes worked in themes: bullfighting, rodeos, circuses. He enjoys repeating stories like Penelope who waits for her love at the train station. His daughter, Alma, recalls “… he likes to use characters from literature, especially Magical Realism. In the 1970s and again in the 90s, for example, he represented characters from Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad. But he creates his own worlds and his own metaphors.”
In 2001, Fernández painted Eterno femenino in the Teatro Nacional, considered one of his most important works.
Now in his eighties, Fernández’s work has continued to evolve. He works mostly in oils, though he also uses mixed media, including varnish. He paints on canvas, wood, and cardboard. “Painting is a journey because it can be traveled,” he has said, “and I want to arrive at the end of it discovering things.” By 2009, his journey had taken him to complete abstraction. “The phase of decorative works is behind me,” he said. “The language of the artist is color. Abstraction is form and color, and that’s what I’m interested to explore in this stage.” But somehow those women still keep appearing in his work.
Awards and Honors for Rafa Fernández
1969 – won the Premio Nacional de Pintura “Aquileo J. Echeverría” for the first time
1972 – won the Premio Nacional de Pintura “Aquileo J. Echeverría” for the second time
1975 – won the Premio Nacional de Pintura “Aquileo J. Echeverría” for the third time
2002 – won the Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón for a lifetime of achievement in the Costa Rican arts
2005 – invited to contribute a self-portrait to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy, hung next to those of Chagall, Rembrandt, and Delacroix, among others
2013 – one of his works added to the collection of the Museo de Goya, in Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, Spain