The city artists Erico Smit, Gwen Stok, Funs Janssen, and Gemma Plum have captured the impact of COVID-19 on Rotterdammers and the city of Rotterdam. They were commissioned by the Rotterdam City Archives and CBK Rotterdam. Their creations can be seen from October 23 at the Kunsthal during the exhibition ‘Drawn: Rotterdam! One-and-a-half-metre-society’.
During the ‘intelligent lockdown’, Erico Smit focused on the empty Rotterdam streets and the emotions of the Rotterdammers. In her series UitZicht (Prospect), Gwen Stok depicts the yearning for better prospects during the hard lockdown. Funs Janssen addresses the Rotterdam nightlife immediately after the second lockdown. And the narrative drawings of Gemma Plum show the resilience of various Rotterdammers.
Through the lens of his GoPro-camera Erico Smit (1985) observed the different phases of the pandemic 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.
Gwen Stok (1983) asked various Rotterdammers to send her photos of the view from their window. She combined these photos with impressions she gained during her walks, and things she heard on the news every day. All this information was subsequently converted into a visual story consisting of individual drawings and a comic entitled: UitZicht (Prospect).
Who does the city belong to? This question keeps popping up in different ways in the work of the cinematographic illustrator Funs Janssen (1993), aka Funzig. As a city artist he focused on the night life. He considers the evenings and nights in the city to be magical. He is fascinated by the reflections and colours of the night. After the curfew was lifted, Funs visited the locations where people again started to gather, such as West-Kruiskade and Charloisse Hoofd.
The graphic designer Gemma Plum (1975) is fascinated by human behavior. As a city artist, she sought out stories of Rotterdammers who had all been confronted with COVID-19 in different ways. She noticed that during the pandemic all sense of nuance seemed to have disappeared: you were either for or against; in danger or dangerous; assimilated or lost; flourishing or doomed. Ordinary human behavior was both under fire and under a magnifying glass. For her drawings, which measure 1.5 metres wide, Gemma went in search of nuance, demonstrating that not everything is that black and white.
Even before the bombing of 14 May 1940, but especially during the post-war reconstruction period, artists captured the changes in the city. Until the late 1980s, the Rotterdam City Archives annually commissioned artists to make drawings of the city. Because the city was changing so rapidly, Rotterdam formed an ideal source of inspiration. In 2018 this old tradition was reinstated in collaboration with CBK Rotterdam and since then city artists are again adding to the collection of the Rotterdam City Archives.
The three city artists for 2021, Gwen Stok, Funs ‘Funzig’ Janssen and Gemma Plum, were selected by a jury consisting of: Hugo Borst (Rotterdam writer, art lover and collector), Hedy Tjin (artist), Shehera Grot (Kunsthal), Ove Lucas (CBK Rotterdam), and Jantje Steenhuis and Wanda Waanders (Rotterdam City Archives).
Erico Smit was one of the three selected city artists of 2020. Because of the forced closure of the Kunsthal during the second lockdown at the end of 2020, no one was able to see his work. For this reason, Smit’s drawings are now again exhibited at the Kunsthal.