Working with Circumstances and the Immediate Feeling for the Space

dzogchen artist federico herrero

Painting in my studio in Belen, Costa Rica in 2016.

Federico Herrero from Costa Rica

My name is Federico Herrero. I am from Costa Rica where I live and also practice with the Sangha in the small Dekyitling. The first time I met the teaching was when Jim Valby came to San Jose in 2004 for a retreat and that’s how the beautiful journey began for me.

The first time I met Rinpoche in person was in 2007 in Argentina over December for a wonderful retreat. We celebrated New Years Eve with the Sangha.  I remember being so shy and didn’t know how to react to his presence in the Gönpa, I remember he made eye contact and I was very, very shy and I looked down. My friend Gloriana (Titi) told me to just be myself and that he would just be a mirror of me, and that made me relax a lot from that moment until now.

I am an artist. I do paintings on canvas and murals with abstract and colorful landscapes; I get to travel internationally and this has been a blessing to get to know different cultures and always have new experiences. My favorite painting is the Mandala by Rinpoche where we practice the dance; a painting that you can dance on, to be experienced and have experiences… it is beautiful!

dzogchen artist federico herrero

With Gloriana (titi) at the opening of my exhibition at Sies + Hoeke Galerie in Düsseldorf Germany in 2009.

When painting I try to apply the teaching, I don’t have a sketch or master plan to follow, but instead I work with the circumstances and the immediate feeling for the space, a crack on the wall might be the perfect start for a shape to follow instead of a problem to solve. I use improvisation as a working method. In 1917 Duchamp first talked about the notion of the ready-made. I like how that’s similar to the notion of direct introduction with the teaching. I love art and it has been a gift to be able to approach art and practice together and find connections between them.

There were no artists in my family besides my grandmother, who makes ceramics in a more decorative way. I was more interested in modern art and Cubism and abstract art. I used to read some books at my grandmother’s place when we went to visit her and there was my first discovery of painters like Monet, Miro, Cezanne, Picasso and more contemporary ones and I felt connected to an art history family tree; I felt a place where I belong in this family tree.

I grew up going to a Catholic school, but these types of religious institutions didn’t mean a lot in terms of spirituality for me. It was in other places, especially doing my art and listening to music, that I found it, and also through developing a rich imagination and fantasy, which I exercised a lot, and still, today, this has been my gate for spirituality.

The color class was one of my favorites and where I learned a lot; I studied in New York at an art school, the Americans have developed the study and notion of color through art extremely well and this became a passion for me to explore. There is something I like about color that is always relative to the color it has next to it, it is constantly changing as its context and surroundings are constantly changing.

dzogchen artist federico herrero

“Landscape”. Public wallpainting commission for the city of Medellin Colombia in 2008.

The art of Matisse, for example, has been a great inspiration and resource, and one of my favorite painters is Chilean born Roberto Matta, he was one of the surrealist group together with Dali, Duchamp and Breton, among others. He starts his paintings without any plan or sketch to follow but rather waits for the forms to come out of the canvas, and one form will lead to another, and it is also like letting the painting take control and the artist listens to it – that’s the method I apply in my work.

My first international art exhibition was the Venice Biennale in 2001. I was very young, 21 years old, and this was my first experience in an exhibition of this type. It was an amazing experience and my work was presented together with some of the great masters, so for me it was mind-blowing. While there, I was introduced to a gallery in Madrid and one in Germany and since then I started to show my work in many countries.

Before Venice I came back to Costa Rica from New York because I dropped the studies and at that time I had no intentions to belong to the art world. I felt more interest to isolate myself and just work without communicating with the rest of the world, that was more appealing to me at that moment, but a famous art curator saw my art and invited me to Venice and my whole life changed.

dzogchen artist federico herrero

“Letters and numbers” 2005, 250 x 200 cm, oil, acrylic, permanent marker and spray paint on canvas.

So it has been great getting to know very different cultures and meeting new people all the time. That is one of the things about my work that I love the most, always there is something new and surprises are coming all the time, there is nothing fixed, and things keep changing and shifting positions. The art world today is a wonderful accumulation of energy; it’s going through a very fertile time.  Some of the countries where I have done exhibitions or murals are Italy, Japan, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, Moscow, Hong Kong, Iceland, Brazil, Mexico, US, Panama, Guatemala, Cuba, Alaska, Argentina among others, and I hope to get to know more places in the future. Traveling a lot and being a good observer of everything has impacted my art. My artwork may develop in the future related to sounds or music and a lot of telephonic paintings.

The teaching has impacted my work and my life making it possible for me to relax and enjoy everything that happens and to enjoy without attachment and to be happy without suffering. I feel so grateful to Rinpoche for being so kind to us and having so much love for us.