Carlos Hiller’s paintings
When you see one of Carlos Hiller’s paintings online or in a book, the oil-acrylic seascapes are stunning. But when you view one in real life, you’ll swear you’re in the presence of a masterpiece. This artist’s underwater portrayals of Costa Rica are hypnotic, and photo reproductions really don’t do them justice. Although his compositions are real and true to life, he way he toys with light and color simultaneously lends a surreal ambiance – and the end result is mesmerizing.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a pencil or a paintbrush in hand,” Hiller said. “As a kid I always knew I wanted to live in a place where the rainforest and the ocean met. When I came to Costa Rica [on a backpacking trip], I realized I had found that place.” Hiller has been living here happily ever after ever since – and with nearly twenty years in this beautiful Central American country, he is about as Tico as they come.
Originally born in Argentina, Hiller came to Costa Rica over two decades ago with one goal in mind: to paint the country’s lush, raw jungles. But when, subconsciously, the artist’s imagination began placing dolphins in the middle of his rainforests and sea turtles dancing in the skies, Hiller realized that somewhere along the way he’d fallen in love with the country’s rhythmic oceans more than its tropical canopies. Finally, he gave up painting jungle scenes altogether in favor of depicting the deep blue.
With his long-term affinity for playing with perspective, Hiller’s favorite angle is a snorkeler’s half-submerged vantage point – which includes two atmospheres, wet and dry and the amorphous line that separates them. The effect gives the audience the sense that they are inside a glass jar or their own micro-universe that transcends the limits of the human perspective.
Carlos Hiller’s simple, sincere and humanitarian approach to art is selfless and admirable. “My dream is that people see my murals and say, ‘Oh, how pretty. Let’s stop throwing trash in the water’. The idea is to inspire people to make little changes in their lives, [changes] which can affect the world in a big way when multiplied by a lot of people,” he explained.
As a gesture of thanks for all of the inspiration that Costa Rica provides him, Carlos HIller likes to give back to the community. For example, every year for World Oceans Day (June 8) he paints a massive mural for the community. The 2010 piece is located in the parking lot of Playa del Coco’s new Banco Nacional. The enormous painting features life-size mahi mahi, sailfish and sardines darting around the Catalina Islands.
For Hiller, the most rewarding moment during its creation came when a local fisherman took a long, hard look at one of the mahi mahi and said, “Wow. They are really beautiful when they aren’t hooked to the end of my line.” Despite daily encounters with the immense creatures, he had never considered what they are like alive and thriving beneath the surface; he’d always seen them as just a source of income, or what’s for dinner.
This affable painter is now the official resident artist at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery in Liberia, one of the largest galleries in the Guanacaste province. There he often works alongside other artists like surrealists and photographers with contrasting styles. This method has produced several mixed media pieces thus far, many of which have been donated local charities and sold for fundraising.