Carlos Fernández

Costa Rica, b.1986

Lives and works in Santa Ana, Costa Rica

Carlos Fernández finds his creative sanctuary in the mountains surrounding Santa Ana, San José. His idyllic setting shapes his artwork, with a farm that not only yields sustenance but also the raw materials he integrates into his paintings. Influenced by artists like Julie Mehretu, Francis Alys and Joseph Beuys, Fernández employs a blend of natural elements into acrylic paint, like soil, beeswax, and turmeric, showcasing an interplay between art and the natural world.

The hills around his Santa Ana farm are abundant with layers of clay, the reason for the ceramic tradition around the town. Fernández incorporates this clay into his paintings, blending it with acrylic paint in a distinctive ratio of 80% clay to 20% paint. The spectrum of colour varies in the clay, showcasing natural hues ranging from white, to grey, to peachy red. In his black pieces, Fernández uses black soil, enhancing its depth with only a few drops of black pigment. Spices, such as turmeric and achiote are directly applied, and fixed, onto the canvases, embracing Fernández’s’ philosophy that “pigment is food” and drawing from the artistic tradition of mixing these spices with paint to achieve lively colour.

“My work is strictly contextual,” says Fernández. “I start as I would start a garden. I analyse what I see in my environment, beginning with a series of painting or drawing exercises before moving onto canvases, photographs, videos or performances.”

His works have garnered international acclaim through exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, MAC in Panama, and Fuso in Lisbon, among others. His agricultural and gastronomic knowledge is fused with a use of local materials and traditional techniques that pays homage to the artistic heritage of Santa Ana, while pushing the boundaries of contemporary art.

Carlos Fernández in his studio, 2023 (Photography by Juan Tribaldos)

"Artists usually repeat the same thing over and over again, like a recipe. My projects are diverse in form but revolve around the same themes, giving my work an air of constant renewal." Carlos Fernández, 2023