Into Pergamon with Rob Anderson

Drawing by Rob Anderson

Last Saturday we went to see the show Into Pergamon by Rob Anderson (my teacher at the atelier). The show centers around a collection of drawings he did of the Great Frieze of the Pergamon altar that’s now in Berlin.

This is great stuff! His work is subtle, seemingly delicate at first, the charcoal like feather marks on the paper. But the longer you look at it, the more you see the strength and internal integrity of it. It comes into focus suddenly and forcefully, and simple charcoal and chalk drawings on brown handmade paper come alive with the clash of giants and gods at battle.

In his bio, it says, “He [Rob] did not in a moment of inspiration walk into his studio to spill out these skillful drawings in a fit of artistic passion. It didn’t take him a day to complete these works, nor did it take several days, or even weeks, but months of tedious and arduous work.”

It struck me that the time he took to make these drawings is almost as powerful as the drawings themselves. In our instant-society, where we expect everything to get done in less time than it takes to cook Uncle Ben’s minute rice, this kind of focus and dedication is rare.

And it makes me wonder if the new direction fine art will take will be back towards craftsmanship, back towards thought, and planning, and effort.

There is a movement, to be sure, of artists who want to study realism, but the big guns, the critics and columnists, the editors and galleries, don’t seem to value this, calling it a “populist movement.”

“Sheer draftsmanship,” they sneer.

But draftsmanship coupled with artistic vision…doesn’t that put a drawing or painting squarely back in to the realm of fine art? It becomes something that is valued not just for the thing itself, but the thought, dreams, and desires, and the time that went into the making.

Into Pergamon is at Ohlone College in Fremont until February 6, 2010. Give yourself plenty of time to see it.