Slow Art and Mindfulness with the Art Gallery of Ontario

For their 7th Slow Art Day on April 10th, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, one of Canada’s largest art museums, shared a video and five artworks from their collection to their social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A couple of days before the event, AGO uploaded a slow looking video featuring Clarence Alphonse Gagnon’s ‘Study of a Hare in Winter’ (1922), with a slow looking and mindfulness exercise guided by Melissa Smith, Assistant Curator of Community Programs.

Slow Looking video produced by the Art Gallery of Ontario for Slow Art Day 2021, featuring Clarence Alphonse Gagnon’s ‘Study of a Hare in Winter’ (1922), with a slow looking exercise guided by Melissa Smith, Assistant Curator of Community Programs.

On the actual day of the event, participants were then invited to focus on each of these five artworks for 10 minutes:

  • Kazuo Nakamura, Blue Reflections, 1962
  • Abraham Anghik Ruben, Sedna, c.1990
  • Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Four Etchings, 1904
  • Julie Mehretu, Algorithms, Apparitions and Translations, 2013
  • Christi Belcourt, Wisdom of the Universe. 2014

They were also encouraged to leave comments under each image.

Below are images of the artworks, which we encourage you to experience slowly using the AGO’s prompts that follow.

Kazuo Nakamura, Blue Reflections, 1962
oil on canvas, Overall: 101.7 x 127 cm. Purchase, with funds from the Peter Larkin Foundation, 1962. © Art Gallery of Ontario 62/8

Prompts for Kazuo Nakamura

For this Kazuo Nakamura piece don’t just look slowly, look closely. See how subtly the colours change. Pay attention to how the gradual shifts in brushstrokes give a sense of movement to the landscape. What do you notice about how the brushstrokes are applied? Each and every brushstroke is calculated and purposefully applied. Nakamura is best known for this analytical approach in his paintings, and in his later works, he was influenced by mathematics and scientific theories. He sought to discover a universal pattern in art and nature. What do you think this universal pattern would look like? Do you prefer an analytical approach or a more gestural one?

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Potrebbe essere un'immagine raffigurante 1 persona e scultura
Abraham Anghik Ruben, Sedna, c.1990
mottled dark green Brazilian soapstone, inset stone eyes, Overall (approx.) 70 × 35.5 × 18 cm. Gift of Samuel and Esther Sarick, Toronto, 2001. © Abraham Anghik Ruben. 2001/400 

Prompts for Abraham Anghik Ruben

Abraham Anghik Ruben is a storyteller and tells his stories through the medium of sculpture. His sculptures often tell the legends, myths, and spiritual traditions of the Inuit people and the Arctic land. A recurring figure in Ruben’s works is the Inuit Sea Goddess, Sedna. Look at how her hair dramatically but gracefully arches up behind her like it is flowing with the movement of water. Notice how her eyes stand out from the rest of the sculpture, and how she clutches her hands close to her torso. What do her expression and her posture suggest? What is the message Ruben is trying to share?

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Potrebbe essere un contenuto artistico raffigurante spazio al chiuso
Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Four Etchings, 1904
oil on canvas, Framed: 74.7 × 63.6 cm. Purchased with the assistance of a Moveable Cultural Property grant accorded by the Department of Canadian Heritage under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, 2015; © Art Gallery of Ontario. 2014/1054

Prompts for Vilhelm Hammershøi

Looking for a little calm and quiet? Come and join us in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s “Interior with Four Etchings”. A muted scene in both colour and sound, we invite you to hush the world around you as you spend some time with this piece. The female figure is the artist’s wife, Ida. Since she has her back to us, we cannot read her expression. But because she is turned away, we can enter and explore this private space freely. Take a look around. Notice how the light softly enters from the left, creating reflections on surfaces and depth in the space. Where do your eyes go? To the items on the table? To the etchings on the wall? What are the etchings of? Look closely because there are details here that could have easily escaped you before.

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Potrebbe essere un contenuto artistico
Julie Mehretu, Algorithms, Apparitions and Translations, 2013
One of a suite of five etchings. Etching with aquatint, spitbite, soft ground, hardground, drypoint and engraving in black ink on paper. Sheet: 79.4 × 94.8 cm. Purchase, with funds from the Trier-Fodor Fund, 2019. © Julie Mehretu, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery. 2019/2322.1

Prompts for Julie Mehretu

There’s no piece quite like this Julie Mehretu that demonstrates the importance of an unhurried and patient approach to art. Mehretu is inspired by landscapes, cities, and human activity within nature. Particularly interested in layered imagery, Mehretu’s printmaking technique requires her to slow down as she layers line upon line to create this surreal landscape. Take a look, what do you see? Now, look closer. Even closer. The closer you look the more details you’ll see. The larger narrative will begin to fall apart, revealing various smaller narratives beneath. Just as the piece evolves with each of Mehretu’s lines, your experience of this work will also evolve over time. So, go on. Look again.

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Nessuna descrizione della foto disponibile.
Christi Belcourt, Wisdom of the Universe. 2014
Acrylic on canvas, unframed: 171 × 282 cm. Purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014. © Christi Belcourt 2014/6

Prompts for Christi Belcourt

Ten minutes is hardly enough time to contemplate the wisdom of the universe, both the concept and this piece by Metis artist Christi Belcourt. Take your time to really explore this piece. What type of birds do you see? What type of flowers and vegetation can you recognize? Imagine yourself in this space. Move through the branches and notice the balance and harmony. Can you hear the sounds of the animals? Can you smell the flowers around you? See how everything is connected. This great network of life. Belcourt’s piece asks us to reflect upon the well-being of all living species on this earth, as the current climate crisis affects us all. Take a deep breath, and surround yourself with the wisdom of the universe.

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The event was well received, with 10,000+ likes and views on the AGO’s social media platforms.

Below are some great quotes form participants:

This is my favourite painting at the AGO! I always spend a long time in front of it and always pick up something new each visit.

Participant’s comment under Nakamura’s painting – Instagram

Love this idea!!

Participant’s comment on Instagram

We appreciate the Art Gallery of Ontario’s thoughtful design for this multi-day virtual event, and look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Ashley, Jessica, and Phyl

Slow Art Infusion at the Three Sisters Tearoom

The Three Sisters Tearoom, in ​Campbellsville, Tennessee, hosted their first official Slow Art Day – and due to popular demand, they decided to hold slow looking sessions throughout the whole month of April.

The Stowe family, who run the tearoom, designed their Slow Art Month around selected paintings that featured tea as a centerpiece.

Artworks included:

  • One of the Family. Fredrick George Cotman
  • Beauty and the Beast. Jessi Wilcox Smith.
One of the Family. Fredrick George Cotman
Beauty and the Beast. Jessi Wilcox Smith.

During the sessions, visitors looked slowly at the selected works while sipping tea and listening to live music. This was followed by an engaging discussion where participants shared their observations.

The paintings selected, along with many others, are included in two slow-art-inspired books: Infused: Tea Time in Fine Art, and The Hide and Seek Gallery: A Child’s I Spy in Fine Art. Both books are written by Jennifer Stowe, slow art author, tearoom owner, and mother to the three sisters that the tearoom is named after.

Participants engaging with art.
Participants engaging with fine art while sipping tea.

The events were well received by participants of all ages. Julia Stowe said that she and her sisters are excited to continue hosting multi-generational slow art sessions throughout the year.

“Guests of all ages enjoyed this set-apart time to consider art, and the unique and intriguing observations from art-observers of various generations were especially delightful.”

Julia Stowe

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that the Stowe family have adopted multi-generational slow looking sessions throughout the year.

We have been thinking about creating an annual tour to visit Slow Art Day museums and galleries all over the world. Assuming we make that happen, we hope to visit Campbell, TN and try their tea and slow art infusions.

In the meantime, we look forward to what the Three Sisters Tearoom comes up with for Slow Art Month in 2022.

Johanna, Ashley, Jessica, and Phyl

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about their approach, read the Summer 2021 newsletter below.