Impressionist Interiors at The Bendigo Art Gallery

Art by Australian Impressionist Bessie Davidson was at the heart of the third Slow Art Day hosted this year by The Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia.

On April 4, slow-panned videos of three paintings from the exhibition ‘Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart – Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde’ were shared on the gallery’s website (still images below):

  • Lecture au jardin (reading in the garden), 1930s.
  • Fillette au perrouquet (Little girl with parrot), 1913.
  • An interior, c. 1920.
Bessie Davidson, Lecture au jardin (reading in the garden), 1930s, oil on plywood 94 x 114 cm. Collection of Max Tegel, New South Wales.
Bessie Davidson, Fillette au perrouquet (Little girl with parrot), 1913, oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm.
Collection of Carmel Dyer and Allen Hunter. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Bessie Davidson, An interior, c. 1920, oil on composition board  73.1 x 59.7 cm.
Gift of Mrs C Glanville, 1968, Art Gallery of South Australia.

Staggered images of the paintings were also shared on the gallery’s Facebook page via three posts before, during and after April 4th. Participants were invited to respond by posting comments, thoughts and images of their own works inspired by the slow-looking.

Each Facebook post got more likes than the previous, with the last post receiving 1.2k likes. Several people also sent in beautiful paintings of their own children and interiors.

Suzie Luke, Public Programs and Learning Officer at the Bendigo Art Gallery, said that many participants had “tremendously positive feedback” about the artist, artworks and the gallery itself:

Love that you’re doing this. This is the sort of thing I need to lift my spirits, just like every visit to your gallery has always done. Thank you!

This idea is so great, please keep doing it even when the emergency is over.

Jan Deane; Papageno Ragdoll

Slow Art Day at Bendigo Art Gallery usually consists of slow-looking guided tours by their wonderful volunteers, followed by discussions of the paintings and afternoon tea. This year, it has been inspiring to see the gallery make such a beautiful transition to virtual platforms.

We hope that The Bendigo Art Gallery will host another innovative Slow Art Day in 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

NMWA Turns Slow Art Day into a Week of Activities

For its 7th Slow Art Day celebration, The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. turned the day into a whole week of events, featuring 10 women, half of whom are artists of color: Andrea Higgins, Graciela Iturbide, Frida Kahlo, Susan Katz, Yayoi Kusama, Amy Lamb, Delita Martin, Alison Saar, Amy Sherald, and Mickalene Thomas.

Participants in their Slow Art “Week” were invited via the museum website and social media platforms to select and spend 10 minutes with five portraits from among the works of the 10 artists. They were then asked to join a Zoom discussion to reflect on their slow looking experience. A detailed image of Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky’ (1937) was also made accessible on the Google Arts & Culture platform and shared as a Facebook post.

The Slow Art Day events were part of the ongoing initiative NMWA at Home, which features an amazing range of art resources from online exhibitions to Spotify playlists which can be accessed here. A PDF with instructions for the Slow Art Day specific events is available here. You can also explore more of the NMWA collection here.

One of the featured artists for their Slow Art Week was Amy Sherald, who works to reclaim portraiture and turn it into a celebration of African American individuality. Strongly inspired by Frida Kahlo’s themes and her use of color, Sherald’s art is a critique of historical black representation in both portraiture and photography and seeks to promote black selfhood.

Amy Sherald, ‘It Made Sense…Mostly In Her Mind,’ Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches, 2011; Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the 25th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Photo courtesy of the artist.

Amy Sherald has also spoken a lot about her work. We’ve included quotes below and encourage you to watch the short YouTube video ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio.’

“My work is about taking blackness past the stereotypes and opening it up to the imagination.”

Amy Sherald, quote from the NMWA Blog.

“These people have let go of that idea of being watched. They’re there to meet your gaze in a different way. And it’s a critique on historical black representation, whether it be in photography or painting.”

Amy Sherald, quote from Hauser & Wirth’s ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio’ (YouTube).

The whole Slow Art Day HQ team loves Amy Sherald’s work and we are excited to see such focus on the reframing of conventional art history.

Participants also loved the NMWA’s Slow Art Week. One said it was one of the most “well-planned online (or offline) events they had experienced.” And unlike the previous years when the events were in the museum, this year people from all over the world – from California to the United Kingdom – were able to participate in their great program.

“This has been a super experience in so many ways: the quality of the seeing/interpretation; the generosity of listening/talking; and the sheer excitement of talking to a group of women I do not know in another country in another time zone, in this moment.”

U.K. Participant

We loved participating in the NMWA’s program and learning so much more about the 10 featured women artists. The Slow Art Day team looks forward to seeing more Slow Art Week (or maybe month?) events at the NMWA in 2021.

– Johanna, Phil and Ashley

P.S. We also have watched with admiration as the NMWA has recently started handing out water and snacks from their museum entrance as one way to support the international protests against racism and police violence.

Yoga & Meditative Creation for Slow Art Day at Wanås Konst in Sweden

For Slow Art Day 2019, Wanås Konst – Center for Art and Learning based in southern Sweden organized a full day focused on three main activities: yoga, slow art exploration, and meditative action painting.

The day started with the yoga session led by yoga instructor Risa Larsen, who focused on gaining new energy and a relaxed body and mind.

Then throughout the day, visitors were encouraged to choose five artworks in the sculpture park, taking the time to observe each slowly. 

Finally, in the afternoon, visitors were invited to the “Meditative Action Painting” workshop inspired by the Danish artist Jeppe Hein. Participants filled Tibetan singing bowls with colored water and used a ringer to slowly move around the edge of the bowl to create vibrations. These vibrations then created a work of art by sprinkling colored droplets onto a canvas underneath the bowl.

Meditative Action Painting Workshop
Photo credit: Elin Magnusson

Elin Magnusson, Head of Education at Wanås Konst, reported that many of the visitors stayed for the entire program.

We look forward to seeing what this site-specific, international contemporary art-focused organization has in store for their 2020 Slow Art Day.

– Ashley

Slow Art Cinema

For years now we have been engaging in the art of slow looking. Slow Art Day is, in some ways, part of the Slow Movement, which seeks to reintroduce aspects of slowness. In many cases the “slow” values are ones that we have long lost, dating back to the introduction of mechanical time-keeping, which put time and its importance at the centre of our lives. Slow Art is but one of many other ‘slow’ activities; for example, the Slow Food movement thrives in many parts of the world. What I personally find intriguing, though, is the link between Slow Art and Slow Cinema, the subject of my on-going research. We published a brief blog entry about Slow Cinema before, which I want to expand on here.

The term ‘Slow Cinema’ was coined in 2004 by film critic Jonathan Romney. Since then it has been widely in use, although the term is somewhat limiting and derogative as ‘slow’ implies boredom for many people. The truth is that the aesthetics of Slow Cinema can be found as far back as the very beginning of cinema history, for example in long takes, which are (often mundane) events filmed in their entirety without a cut. Hungarian director Béla Tarr only cut when the reel came to an end, after about ten minutes. Lav Diaz from the Philippines, who used to be a painter but has now shifted to filmmaking, often goes as far as recording events without a single cut for as long as twenty minutes.

This, the use of an often static camera with little movement in the film frames, might remind one of paintings – only here these paintings are not hanging on a  wall, but instead are projected onto a screen. The result, however, is the same. The viewer sits in front of the visual image, studying every detail of the frame, and may find him- or herself marveling at the beautiful rural landscapes that are often found in slow films. Take Michela Occhipinti’s Letters from the Desert (2012), set in rural India. The protagonists appear as mere dots in the landscape.

Still from Michela Occhipinti's "Letters from the Desert"

Still from Michela Occhipinti’s “Letters from the Desert”

Or take Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra’s Birdsong (2008), which is not only a comedic study of the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem but also a stunning portrayal of empty landscapes.

Still from Albert Serra's Birdsong

Still from Albert Serra’s Birdsong

Then there is also Panahbarkhoda Rezaee from Iran, whose superb Daughter…Father…Daughter (2011) shows the audience a stunning Iranian landscape we perhaps never thought existed.

Still from Panahbarkhoda Rezaee's "Daughter...Father...Daughter"

Still from Panahbarkhoda Rezaee’s “Daughter…Father…Daughter”

And there is Caspar David Friedrich’s famous Rückenfigur that appeared in Lav Diaz’s Death in the Land of Encantos (2007), an overwhelming nine-hour film set in the aftermath of a natural catastrophe that finds little likeness in the Philippines.

Caspar David Friedrich, and Lav Diaz's "Death in the Land of Encantos"

Caspar David Friedrich, and Lav Diaz’s “Death in the Land of Encantos”

There is more to the link between Slow Art and Slow Cinema than the apparent focus of traditions of landscape painting in the latter, however. For a long time I have thought and argued that slow films should be screened in galleries and museums. Locations govern our experiences; hence people tend to go to the movies to escape from reality, to see some action-laden blockbuster that puts them on a roller-coaster ride through the full spectrum of human emotions. A gallery audience has different expectations, ‘slower’ expectations, in fact, so that a projection of the fourteen-hour long Crude Oil (2008) by Wang Bing might sit much more at ease in this surrounding than it would in a cinema. And indeed, slow-film directors are more and more moving into gallery spaces, merging their work with other forms of art. Taiwan-based Tsai Ming-liang, whose superb short film Walker is available and free to see for everyone, even shot Visage (2009) in the Louvre after the museum commissioned him to do so. Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2011) won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2011, is also widely known for his gallery works, such as Photophobia. His short film Dilbar is also available for you to watch online.

It is in this light, then, that I don’t see Slow Art and Slow Cinema as being separate from one other. As mentioned before, there are several slow activities thriving around the world. We have seen everything from Slow Education to Slow Finance to Slow Parenting. But none of these are so intricately intertwined as are Slow Art and Slow Cinema.

You can find more information, thoughts, film reviews, and interviews with directors on my website, The Art(s) of Slow Cinema. Or you can get in touch via theartsofslowcinema@gmail.com. I’m always happy to have slow discussions with people!

– Nadin

The Unique Vision of Edvard Munch

Sue Prideaux, author of Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, wrote a feature article on the artist for the summer edition of Tate Etc. magazine to accompany the Tate Modern’s exhibition,“Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye.”

Prideaux writes about how Munch was affected by spiritualism and use of developing camera technology. In his photography, Munch experimented with the exposure and other processes to achieve supernatural effects that suggested “spirit images” and dopplegängers. Even paintings like “Madonna” (above) were influenced by photographs that claimed to capture the aura emitted by all living beings.

Read more to learn about Edvard Munch’s unique vision and how the arts of looking and painting in the Modernist period were changed by that period’s new technology.

– Naomi Kuo, Slow Art Day Intern

Looking Slowly Means a Workout For Your Eyes

Some works of art seem to inherently invite a slower, more involved viewing experience. New American Painting contributor Brian Fee would agree in regards to Shara Hughes’ richly colored paintings currently exhibited at the American Contemporary in New York.

In his review of her work, Fee takes the idea of looking slowly to the next level. The word “slow” can make us think of being lethargic, but looking and engaging with a work of art, as Fee suggests, is a lot like physical exercise. He describes visually exploring Hughe’s paintings as “giving your oculars a calisthenic workout,” and warns against an un-energetic approach (“Go into this half-heartedly and you’ll leave with soft-scrambled brains”).

Hughes’ bold and adventurous paintings certainly do exude energy and invigorate the viewer. Take a slow (but intense) look at her paintings through Lee’s eyes in his review or through your own at the American Contemporary and get in a visual and imaginative workout.

– Naomi Kuo, Slow Art Day Intern