Miguel Hernández Bastos

Costa Rica, b.1961

Lives and works in Heredia, Costa Rica

Miguel Hernández Bastos works in various mediums, from pencil, charcoal, and acrylic paint alongside smoke from an oil lamp that burns onto the canvas like pigment. Capturing the fragility and complexity of the human form, Hernández Bastos explores concepts of metamorphosis and the ephemeral nature of the body, weaving historical symbolism from the candle in Renaissance portraiture.

Navigating between the human and the mechanical, Hernández Bastos intertwines figures that float, fuse and move collectively as a unified entity across the canvas. His paintings hold a delicate transience inherent in human forms coupled with a futuristic essence, where the figures assume a robotic appearance. This interplay dances between eroticism, tenderness and feelings of isolation, dependency and loss. When he paints with smoke, Hernández Bastos conjures wistful, delicate shapes with haunting connotations of burning, evoking the duality of creation and destruction, as he notes, “We all experience feelings of incompleteness, disintegration, pain, insecurity, and violence.”

Working primarily in black and white, he sometimes applies colour over the smoke, layering his figures with depth and elevating their presence on the canvas. Beyond his figures, Hernández Bastos creates circles inspired by Zen art, ensō, and Japanese calligraphy, symbolising illumination, strength, and the vast concept of emptiness.

A graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York and the recipient of the prestigious Fulbright scholarship, Hernández Bastos currently serves as a professor of drawing at the School of Art and Visual Communication at the National University. Among his honors are the National Drawing Prize, Aquileo J. Echeverria Prize, Gold Medal of the Tomas Povedano Drawing Salon, and the Áncora Prize. He has shown extensively around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in Panama and the MOCHA Museum in New York. Most notably, he represented Costa Rica at the XLVII International Art Biennale in Venice, Italy.

Miguel Hernández Bastos in his studio, 2023 (Photography by Julio Sequeira)

"The candle has that ephemeral sense of the volatile." Hernández Bastos, 2015