Brother Felix’s Works Teach Us about God and Saint Dominic

Brother Félix Hernández, OP

Brother Vicente Niño Orti, OP, comments on the artistic work of Brother Félix Hernández, OP.

“Brother Felix’s art brings the message of God to the 21st century, departing from the style of the great medieval works where the altarpiece was the main artistic element. His works speak to us of him, of his states of mind, but they also speak to us of God and of Saint Dominic. We are presented with a Human Art with capital letters where many avenues of expression are combined and the contemporary world encounters the experience of Faith.

In this dialogue, the chromatic palette plays a leading role. Colour is the main tool of communication of Br Felix’s works. Thus, the most basic element of painting opens up a whole world for contemplation and reflection. Br Felix creates paintings that speak of God through chromatic surfaces in relief with plays of light and shadow, the ultimate meaning of which is conferred by the spectator.” (Cristina Expósito de Vicente, Doctor in Religious Sciences)

Abstract art is able to convey complex concepts – emotions, ideas, and narratives – in forms, colours, textures through visual-sensory experiences. Although this type of art has been dominant for a century, it has rarely been used to convey religious experience. Academics and art critics have tried to explain this disconnect but they have perhaps lost sight of the real reason for this separation: the religious dimension of humanity is being explored less and less.

Faced with this situation, Br Félix Hernández, OP, offers a courageous pictorial experiment in the search for a contemporary language to express one of the most primitive and authentic dimensions of the human condition: the transcendent, spiritual and religious dimension. Furthermore, Br Félix who is a Dominican priest brings the particular understanding of the Catholic tradition, and even more, the charism of the Dominican Order –– a tradition marked by profound freedom, by a high intellectualism, by a deep mystical vein and by an unwavering commitment to the transmission of the faith.

All of these are traits that can be found in the artist’s work. Freedom in experimentation is present in his exploration of texture, combinations of colour that provoke emotional reactions, and suggestions of images. At times Br Felix uses minimal expressive notes close to the figurative, compositions that give expression to his own religious sense, veils and subtle layers of weightlessness, highly emotional, that gradually conquer the canvases and refer to one of the author’s greatest influences: the Dominican friar Kim En Joong, OP, a French painter of Korean origin. Br Felix attains this expressive freedom without neglecting a demanding and academic training in his creation, which is linked to the best of the fine arts and theological study.

Secondly, Br Felix protrays intellectualism – not pedantic academicism – understood as the substratum his painting. This aspect of his work refers to the theological concepts, biblical scenes, historical representations, beliefs of faith, which nourish the work of this artist and doctor of theology in a subtle and elegant way. Sometimes this is only suggested in a title, sometimes barely intuited, and represents the painter’s true motivation: subtleties that point to a certain impulsivity and improvised freshness, perfectly suited to reflection.

The third feature of Br Felix’s work is a profound mystical vein. The artist uses painting as a door, a window, which not only offers a private experience of contemplation for the creator, but that also seeks to involve the viewer, inviting him to that same experience. The viewer’s experience is almost like a dialogue with the work because of the spiritual depth it offers. It is as if the work is proposing direct questions to the heart, like offerings of experiences that invite one to empathise and touch certain inner strands of the human being. In his work, Br Felix seeks to express the depths of his own experience, understood not from a mystical elitism, but from the consideration of the vital potentiality of every human heart, from the conviction, experienced and expressed pictorially, that the authentic human identity is precisely that spiritual dimension. Yet he sees man as possessing a spirituality embodied in the corporeal. His work captures this without shying away from the incarnate reality apart from which the human – and painting – is incomprehensible.

Br Félix Hernández, OP, endeavors to create complex artwork that evokes emotion, freedom, reflection and experience, at the service of religious expression. He utilizes the language and fundamental dimensions of the contemporary world to express reality as an invitation to discover one’s own human identity as a spiritual being, with beauty and purpose. His art does not shy away from difficult and complex, dramatic and painful themes, and connects the contemporary world with that which it needs most.

Brother Vicente Niño Orti, OP
Writer and columnist

Autobiography of Brother Félix Hernández, OP
I am a Spanish Dominican friar, born in Barcelona, but Andalusian at heart, as I grew up in Seville (Andalusia), and currently live in Cordoba (Spain).

I was fortunate to be born into a believing family in which I received, especially from my parents, a great witness of faith. I got to know the Order when I was very young thanks to the Dominican Youth Movement. I immediately identified with our charism and was fascinated by our way of living and preaching the Gospel. For some years I thought of myself as a lay Dominican until I felt called to a religious vocation. After a few months of discernment, I entered the pre-novitiate in 2000 and was ordained in 2007.

Academically, I have studied Fine Arts at the Faculties of Seville and the Polytechnic University of Valencia and in 2016 I obtained a PhD in Theology from the Pontifical Faculty “San Esteban” of Salamanca, with the thesis entitled Teología pintada. Three contemporary Dominican artists in Western Europe. With this work I sought to harmonise my religious and artistic vocation.
When I finished my training, I was assigned to the parish of San Jacinto (Seville), a very lively community that taught me how to be a priest in every way. I served there for 12 very happy years that have marked me forever.

I currently live in the convent of Santo Domingo de Scala Coeli, a beautiful house of spirituality located in the mountains of Cordoba, where I can combine my pictorial work with pastoral ministry in other areas. I have always been linked in a special way to youth and vocation work.

On an artistic level, my work has been centred for a long time on design and illustration. I have produced numerous logos, posters and publications in which I have collaborated, always trying to offer my work free of charge to the service of preaching in our family and in the Church in general. It is a great satisfaction to know that the members of the Dominican family find my work useful, and that it has even been used to decorate facades (El Rosario School in Costa Rica) or to make stained glass windows (Santo Tomás Parish in the Dominican Republic).

I experienced a turning point when, as a part of my studies, I met Korean Dominican and artist, Brother Kim in Joong, OP. This relationship opened me to the world of abstract art, which, from that moment on, has kept me fascinated by the great possibilities it offers on a spiritual, pastoral, theological level.
I feel that my great challenge is to bring the experience of God to those who do not know Him, and to do so through communication and a shared path. Although I have offered some solo exhibitions, being so interested in the encounter and dialogue, particularly with the world of culture, I especially enjoy participating in group shows. These have included: Vanguards and Peripheries, held at the centre “La Neomudejar” (Madrid, 2014); the travelling exhibition Silencios, which in 2016 toured the cities of Zaragoza, Burgo de Osma (Soria), Palencia, Caleruega (Burgos), Segovia, Valladolid and Valencia; El racismo no pintta nada, in Tangiers and Tetouan (Morocco, 2016); Auguri (Rome, 2016) or Caminando el colour (Madrid, 2020); “My soul is thirsty”, in September 2021 at the “Dominican art days” in Tallinn (Estonia); “ciclo 16”, from October to November 2021 at Quarfentena Galeria (Argentina); “Dies natalis”, from 25 November 2021 to 13 February 2022 at the O_lumen centre in Madrid; “Ella”, at the archbishop’s palace in Toledo, from 8 March 2022.

I share some examples of my work on the website and on my Instagram accounts: @felixh_op_art and @ilustracionesop.

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