In mid-March, the government announced the effectuation of the intelligent lockdown: museums, schools, cafés and restaurants had to close, events were cancelled, and public life almost came to a complete standstill. It was also the moment when the city artists began making their series of sketches, drawings, and animations that show the creativity, solidarity, vulnerability and resilience of Rotterdam. Each for a period of seven weeks, Stoks, Roos and Smit will successively show a selection of their drawings at the Kunsthal.
From Saturday 12 September up to and including Sunday 1 November 2020, Frank Stoks (1971) will be the first artist whose work is shown. With a camping chair and an iPad under his arm, he roams the city in search of places where Rotterdammers are still able to come together despite the measures. The narrative drawings – chronologically presented and framed in sturdy, black lines – offer an insight into the process of carefully slackening the measures. Stoks for instance draws amateur athletes running through, by that time, green and blossoming parks, the elated visitors of the reopened market, and the café terraces where Rotterdammers were finally allowed to sit down again on Whit Monday.
For health reasons, the artist Pris Roos (1984) initially didn’t dare to go outside. From her home she observed the streets of the Afrikaanderwijk neighbourhood. She subsequently started making daily commutes between South and North Rotterdam and transformed all her impressions into drawings. When the Black Lives Matter protests started, Roos felt an even greater urgency to be on location herself, and decided to dive deep into the fabric of the city. Her colourful oil pastel drawings are fragmented accounts of the daily activities of the Rotterdammers. With the directness of the oil crayons she is able to make pure depictions in intense colours. Pris Roos will not let herself be limited to her A4 sketch books and further expands on these by transforming sheets of paper in different formats into collages. The work of Pris Roos can be seen from Tuesday 3 November up to and including Sunday 13 December 2020.
The illustrator Erico Smit (1985) concludes the series. Through the lens of his GoPro-camera, he has been observing the different phases of the lockdown and the emotions these evoked in the Rotterdammers. From the very first shock, and the choreography of movements resulting from the forced practice of social distancing, to the desire for freedom and the more relaxed attitude that gradually started to develop. Smit’s drawings consist of a mix of ink, acrylic paint, and pencil that he subsequently edits digitally. During this process, Smit only has eyes for his subject and omits any unnecessary details, resulting in an enhanced focus on the emotions involved in this crisis. Erico Smit’s work will be shown from Tuesday 15 December 2020 up to and including 7 February 2021.
Rotterdam city artists
Even before the bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940, but especially during the post-war reconstructions, artists were capturing the changes in the city. Until the end of the 1980s, the Rotterdam City Archives annually commissioned artists to do so. Because of its rapid transformations, Rotterdam forms an ideal source of inspiration. In 2018 this tradition was reinstated in collaboration with CBK Rotterdam, and city artists are now again adding work to the collection of the Rotterdam City Archives. For the 2020 commission, the artists were selected by a jury consisting of the Rotterdam writer – also art lover and art collector – Hugo Borst, artist Hedy Tjin, Kunsthal curator Shehera Grot, Ove Lucas of CBK Rotterdam, and Jantje Steenhuis and Wanda Waanders of the Rotterdam City Archives. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication featuring the drawings of the 2020 city artists.