Beyond abstraction and figuration: Fernando Peña Defilló

Fernando Peña Defilló is a tangible legacy within the visual arts in the Dominican Republic.

The artist who started in the National School of Fine Arts at the end of the 40 years of the 20th century, would later introduce abstractionism into the insular Caribbean; trends of the visual language of the avant-garde of the last century. Figuration and abstraction would be his discourse in the 50 years. For this time he traveled to Spain, and there he cultivated in Daniel Díaz's Studio-Workshop. And he has exchanges with the Dominican painter Silvano Lora, in the El Paso Group, in the city of Madrid.

The avant-garde European currents of the moment influenced their constructions. This stay in the old continent allowed him to generate creations loaded with symbolism.

His compositions become symbols that go from a conceptual language to an ethnological one. Sublime artificer who linked the autochthonous to the universal. On one occasion, he referred to the figurative conceptualization of art: "My evolution towards formalistic figurativism is the necessary result of identification with the environment, with the environment, which is my country, my race, my nature, my origin". The artist makes it clear that the surrounding is relevant to his pictorial work. This identification with the context is evidence that figurativism is more than a means to express colors and forms; this visual category is a form of social commitment.

Peña Defilló, who in a stage will be dedicated in addition to painting, to art criticism; he reflected on his canvases his universe of sensations and emotions, thus converting his creations into philosophical reflections on human existence. Introspection is a game of light and shadow that recreated in its discursive forms. The material and spiritual was the axis on which he addressed all his existential concerns.

The world of dreams and the way in which the artist wanted to express them, give proof of the intimacy that the creative process entailed for this creator. The realization of the works itself was also a dream, but, consciously, for Peña Defilló. The dream universe no longer only belonged to the mind, but, that was part of his waking life, that onirism that he turned into art.

"I have dreams where I find myself in places that are sometimes identifiable, they are so vivid and tangible, that they not only remain in my mind through time, but I usually visit them with some frequency in my dreams of each night and in my memories of each day "

The immaterial realities reached their maximum expression when being reflected from conceptualist perspectives. Perceptions about time permeated his eloquent proposals.

The painter was noted for the particular way of denoting the Caribbean: the one that conceptualized beyond the mythological; transforming the legends of the beliefs of the tropics into totalizing metaphysical signs.

Restless and curious from an early age. The search to propose new ways of saying led him on the path of experimentation, using extra pictorial elements in his works.

Landscaping, nudity, portrait and self-portrait

Peña Defilló never observed the reality like any individual. When he stared at landscapes, they became defragments of colors and shapes in his mind; a mountain with its greenness, ceased to be something figurative, to metamorphose into allegorical impressions of the natural world, which became a metaphor underlying the dream state. Love for nature expressed it in his paintings.

In the nude he praised the human body, sensuality and eroticism, seen with a more than physical, spiritual connotation. Nudity exposed with respect and admiration. The body of a woman and a man; or both together embraced suggest the unity of the material and immaterial being. Sexuality sublimated through allegorical resources to fantasy and innocence.

The portrait had its place in the life of the artist. In these compositions an imaginative portrait stands out, which alludes to childhood and youth. Nature as a backdrop in some of these works expresses the new, the young. On this he pointed out: "a pulsating inner life reflected on the surface of bodies and faces".


His pieces were awarded in different contests; The awards of the Contest Eduardo León Jimenes, In the second (1966) and in the third (1967) announcement; he University Cultural Movement Award (1971) for his career as an artist; Gulf & Western Award (1974) in the XIII National Biennial for his work Tribute to García Lorca. In the 2010 received the National Prize of Plastic Arts.

The call of the mountains would feel it after the city drowned it with its noises, for that reason it established residence in Jarabacoa, mountainous zone of the Dominican Republic. This space allowed him to open up with his vocation and establish contact with humble citizens of the environment that impregnated him with peace.

His career has a physical dwelling that is the museum that bears his name. Created by the Fernando Peña Defilló Foundation with the aim of making known the life and work of this master of Dominican painting, with a view to current and future generations to know about their contributions to the arts.

He left to that encounter with his dreams and landscapes, he took the path of the eternal return to the source. He said a goodbye that is not definitive, because no artist dies. His heart is beating between the ink, between the strokes and between the memory of a painting.

Arlyn Abreu
Social communicator