Broken Figs - Oil on canvas board 6" X 6"
By James Eaton
Robin Anderson is a talented still life artist from Southern California. Her past subjects have primarily been
flowers – often on a grand style. “Figs” is a significant departure from Robin’s previous work. The subject
challenges more than pleases the patron; but that said, “Figs” pleases me greatly. Almost everything about
this painting is a serious departure from Robin’s past work including subject, condition of the subject, color,
technique, atmosphere, space, and the intangible sense of life as raw, physical, and seductively beautiful.
Robin has done with her art what I would like to do with my life, if I were not so cowardly and proud; I
believe that is the essence of her job as an artist. Robin has undergone an enormous transformation and
then showed it to us, without hesitation, with canvas and paint.
Robin painted this image from life, and that alone explains a raw intensity to the canvas I have rarely seen in
her work. This painting is more accessible to the male sensibility. It bleeds like an open wound earned in
battle and worn like an emblem of courage. If my image makes you uneasy, you have never played a
dangerous, physical sport, or suffered an injury for a noble purpose. Robin’s “Figs” capture both the
immediacy and courage of living with natural forces. Like “Figure With Meat” by English Painter Francis
Bacon, Robin’s figs deliver the raw, intensity of nature minus Bacon’s surreal neurotic twists.
Figs are possessed of an ancient symbolism, endowing them with sacred status. They are soft, sweet, often
dark and brooding, yet when ripe, their flesh opens easily and bleeds truth. Like the sacred heart of a
Madonna in a dark, musty Catholic Church, ripe figs perform their Mass in Latin. Even if we don’t
understand the ancient language, we love the sacred rite as it pours over our troubled souls with the sweet
bouquet of abundant redemption. Robin’s figs bring this sense of the Mass, of life redeemed by blood
sacrifice, as I sit alone on the back pew. Toward the back of the table, Robin’s dark, uncut figs are beautiful
in their simplicity, color, and anticipation, but are then entirely upstaged by the red, ripe figs already
executed and oozing life on the ancient wood altar.
Robin’s new technique excites me on a number of levels. The background space reflects the colors of the
subjects, but with the ambiguity of a primal dimension where the sacred and the profane separate in the
dark. The rough hue of the wood table does not reflect the light of the image – as in some of Robin’s earlier
paintings. These figs are not concerned about reflected light; they are brooding, immediate, and possess a
light of their own. The wood table is rough and scarred from previous sacred executions. This would be a
terrifying image, the soul resting on the altar of its own destruction, but the figs willingly give up their flesh
and blood. It is their purpose. It is why they exist. It is also why I like the subject matter of this painting.
After all the analysis of symbol and subject, Robin Anderson’s “Figs” is simply a very good painting. While
open to analysis, it passes the ultimate test and qualifies as an accomplished, enjoyable work of art. I would
display this painting in my home with an arrangement of artifacts, possibly an antique crucifix or collection
of eclectic but deeply evocative paintings and drawings. With “Figs”, Robin crossed over to a new style and
tapped into a new thought stream. She showed us something of courage and sacrifice, and she showed us
something of herself. She can wear this canvas like an emblem of sacred courage. I look forward to her next
painting. – Jim Eaton