Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tangerines and notes by James Eaton

Open tangerines by antique blue and white pitcher - Oil on canvas board 8" X 6"

Still Life Animating Memoryby James Eaton

Interpreting art is dangerous business. So many personalities bruise so easily – fresh fruit, still life, and human 
ego have so much in common. Still, reviewing Southern California still life artist, Robin Anderson, is great fun 
and a risk worth taking. Knowing and reviewing gifted people is more amusing than possessing talent itself.

Accommodating change is the most difficult process humans endure; in our small, inner world, memory fades 
behind a veil of distorted vision. Ultimately, memory becomes happier, and sometimes more sad, than the actual 
moment. But the demands of time are dominant and memory will endure in its imperfect, partially hidden 
world, peeking out from behind the semi-translucent veil of moments past. Robin Anderson parts the veil to the 
unconscious and allows us a glimpse.

Artists have a sacred duty to bring veiled memories to light. The talented artist is the midwife that delivers us to 
the understanding we normally choose to ignore, but in wisdom, we finally embrace. A talented artist never 
performs this sacred task directly; the artist is grounded by indirect inference. The observer too, like the artist, 
must struggle for meaning or the baby will never be delivered. The artist’s technique is not the source of initial 
engagement – although that inspection comes later. A painting’s success is revealed by engaging the sense of 
humanity and memory, both present, and standing just the other side of gauzy veil.

Robin Anderson’s new paintings qualify as the midwife of change – indirect, veiled, possessed of joy and 
sadness, and almost present, if not for the small distance separating memory from the now. Robin is painting 
something far more significant than still life. Robin is representing a deeper aesthetic. Her current paintings 
incorporate a sense of the moment, of insight, and tear at time to let consciousness breath.

I am always aware of my male sensibility when judging art. When a man judges another man’s art, the process 
of aesthetic appraisal is much easier. But when a man judges a woman’s art, the process is much more complex; 
as with all gender communication, this is more a problem of exposition than insight. While I recognize the 
feminine intelligence of Robin’s hand and eye, I also recognize that she is expressing ideas universal to all 
humankind, independent of mere gender, and offering a more successful aesthetic available to both male and 
female sensibilities. This is the talent and the accomplishment of a gifted artist.

The two paintings above, “Tangerines” and “Geraniums” are new arrivals to Robin’s family. She has clearly 
made a dramatic effort to separate from her former studied technique of still life on a grand scale. It is less that 
these paintings are less grand and more that they are just so much more accessible. They are human, common, 
imperfect in form and frame. They are wounded by life, yet filled with all the human divinity that inspires life 
on a grand scale.

“Tangerines” is reminiscent of Robin’s recent “Figs” in design and presentation, yet reflective of the place citrus 
has in the well-lit palette of culinary sense and oil on canvas. The tangerines reflect the light in the room. They 
enable a reflection on the polished table. They do not brood. They are not guilty. And they have nothing to 
confess. The vase in the background is a classic piece, partially framed, and the image lifts. The tangerines are 
both whole and partially crushed. This is an important representation. The dichotomy of what is apparent and 
what exists on the inside is an important vision. More, the fact that what exists on the interior is partially 
crushed and oozing life is what catapults the meaning of the images to a higher level of philosophical and 
psychological drama.

“Geraniums” is also a very good painting, but for different reasons than “Tangerines”. It is beautiful and 
immediate, common, but also noble. It is pretty in the feminine sense, but commonly accessible to all. With 
“Geraniums”, the eye will naturally follow the image without being condemned for staring. The pedals are not 
studied. The stems follow a natural course, weighed down by life itself. The simple fruit jar holding the flowers 
distorts the image behind the veil of glass and water, causing memory, leaf, and plant stem to dissolve into a 
recognizable chaos. The painting affects me as does a still life by Manet painted over a century ago. For Robin to 
arrive at the same place as Manet is only the highest of achievements and makes me want more, very soon.

Of no less importance is the background for each painting. Figure is only known in context. Robin’s context 
offers a germane background that does not demand attention unless you choose it. This matter immediately 
takes me to technique. The brush is intense and lifting, swirling the eye behind the formal image. I like this 
technique as much as I like the painting’s subject. A bad context will ensure a bad painting – Robin sidesteps 
this problem very nicely.

Robin’s art is changing. That may be a source of its immediacy and risk. This is a moment in an artist’s history 
that is recognizable, vulnerable, and disappears as the norm becomes the established and the creative opening 
closes. This is the energy of Robin’s work that evokes the sense of memory and humanity lost in time, yet 
present in the chaos of present life. – Jim Eaton

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