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?

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 

xxxxxx

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?

xxxx

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.

xxxxx

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.

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.

xxxx

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

Japanese Women Artists: Slow Art Day at the Gardiner Museum

For their second Slow Art Day, the Gardiner Museum in Toronto (ON), Canada, created a slow looking video that focused on two ceramic sculptures by renowned Japanese women artists:

  • Fujikasa Satoko Hiten; Seraphim, 2016 Stoneware with white slip glaze.
    The Diana Reitberger Collection
  • Hattori Makiko. Ryū: Flow, 2017 Unglazed porcelainous stoneware
    The Diana Reitberger Collection
Fujikasa Satoko Hiten; Seraphim, 2016 Stoneware with white slip glaze. 23 1/4 x 25 1/8 x 17 3/4 in. The Diana Reitberger Collection

Hattori Makiko. Ryū: Flow, 2017 Unglazed porcelainous stoneware.
The Diana Reitberger Collection

On April 10, the museum invited participants to watch the below video showcasing the sculptures.

We recommend that museum educators and Slow Art Day fans around the world watch this simple and lovely slow looking video. The video is also accessible through the Museum’s website and social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For those interested in the history of Japanese women sculptors, we recommend this article published in Pen [ペン]: Japan’s Female Ceramists Celebrated on the International Stage.

Slow Art Day 2021 video created by the Gardiner Museum. Music: White Lotus by Kevin Macleoud


While watching the video, participants were given the following prompts to better engage with the artworks:

Seraphim

  • Outline the sculpture with your eyes, noticing each bump and curve.
  • Trace the outline of the shadow at the base of the sculpture.
  • Look at the negative space created around and within the piece. What shapes do you see?
  • Observe the different areas of shadow and light. Try to identify all the various tones of grey, white, and black.
  • What would you title this piece?

Ryū: Flow

  • Look at the object as a whole. What does it look like to you? Does it remind you of anything familiar?
  • Observe the texture of the piece from a distance. What do you think it will look like up close?
  • What do think this piece would feel like to touch? Imagine resting your hand against it.
  • Pick a point along one of the little ribbons and follow it with your eyes, weaving among the spirals and folds. What shapes can you create?
  • Imagine picking up the sculpture. How heavy do you think it would be? Feel its weight in your hands.
  • If you were picking a spot to display this piece, where would you put it? Close your eyes and visualize it there.


Participants responded well to the video. We include some of their comments below:

I love experiencing the movements in such quietness. Thanks for showing us!

Participant’s quote


Wonderful pieces, beautifully shot! I could see the flow and feel the texture.

Participant’s quote.


Both beautiful pieces, a very meditative relaxing view of each individually. I really enjoyed looking at these two pieces in this way.

Participant’s quote


Such a lovely escape.

Participant’s quote


It is SLOW ART DAY… and the Gardiner Museum has released this wonderful 5 minute video designed to help us pause and reflect in the midst of our busy lives. What a great idea!

Participant’s quote



We at Slow Art Day HQ loved the video and the prompts. The mindful connection with the ceramic sculptures recreated and enhanced the experience.

We are considering a global tour of Slow Art Day museums, perhaps starting next summer. We would definitely love to visit the Gardiner Museum and see these beautiful sculptures in person.

And, of course, we look forward to what the Gardiner Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

The Power Plant Hosts Fourth Slow Art Day, Virtually

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Canada hosted its fourth Slow Art Day this year – and its first virtual slow looking event given Covid-19.

The virtual event highlighted four artworks from the Winter 2020 exhibitions:

God’s Reptilian Finger by Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa
Cacaxte no. 2 (Sarvelia) by Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa
Spectre (La Teleferica) by Dawit L. Petros
Anxious Audience by Rashid Johnson

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, ​God’s Reptilian Finger​, 2015-20. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Cacaxte no. 2 (Sarvelia), 2020. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Dawit L. Petros, Spectre (La Teleferica), 2020. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Rashid Johnson, Untitled (Anxious Audience), 2016. Courtesy of artist, Hauser & Wirth and David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Martin Parsekian.

Laura Demers, TD Curator of Education and Outreach Fellow, wrote a series of prompts that were posted online, alongside close-up photos highlighting specific details in the four artworks. Viewers across the globe were invited to respond to these prompts, either by sharing their impressions in writing (stories, lists, poems, short paragraphs, or social media comments) or by engaging in small multi-sensory activities at home.

The downloadable PDF from the event is permanently posted on their website for participants to continue to use at their own pace. 

Laura mentioned that the event was so well received that it produced over 350 new Instagram followers, and thousands of likes from the community across all of their social media accounts.

Josh Heuman, Curator of Education & Public Programs at The Power Plant, writes that:

“In little ways, this COVID-19 pandemic is pushing us to re-think how we might use online platforms to think beyond the four walls of The Power Plant.”

We are encouraged by the creative responses to the challenge of hosting virtual events during these difficult times, and look forward to The Power Plant’s continued participation in 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Art Day 2019 Annual Report

As we prepare for Slow Art Day 2020, we have finished our 2019 report with host summaries from around the world.

If you would like to review the full report, you can
download it here (PDF – 14MB).

Highlights 

  • SFMOMA hosted a ticketed lunch and slow viewing session, which sold out 
  • Chicago Art Institute trained young people to be docents for Slow Art Day engaging young people in a new way that gives them ownership over the experience 
  • Brazil’s largest foundation of contemporary art, Inhotim, hosted its first Slow Art Day 
  • Toronto hosted more Slow Art Day events than any city around the world 
  • Many venues held daylong events with food, music, dancing, and lots of slow viewing (check out this video from Ur Mara Museoa in the Basque country
  • Multi-sensory sessions took off around the world (close to 25% of reporting museums did some multi-sensory work, as you can see below) 
  • Phil Terry, Founder, delivered a keynote about Slow Art Day at a Toronto inclusive design conference  
  • Phil and the team started visiting cities (Toronto and Philadelphia to begin with) to bring together educators and curators to strengthen the community and share best practices 

We also continued to receive great press attention including from The BBCThe Art NewspaperSmithsonian Magazine, and many local and regional offline and online newspapers, radio, and television. 

Again, to read the full report including summaries from around the world, download our 2019 Annual Report here (PDF-14MB).

We look forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary with you in 2020. Thank you for all you have done to make possible the 1,500 total Slow Art Day events over the years on every continent and land mass except for Greenland (who is up for Greenland this year?). 

Best,  

Phil, Ashley, Maggie, Johanna and the whole Slow Art Day central volunteer team 

PS –

If you haven’t already, you can register for 2020 participation via this link: https://www.slowartday.com/be-a-host

Successful First Slow Art Day at InterAccess in Toronto

For their first Slow Art Day event, InterAccess in Toronto, Canada examined slow looking in relation to time-based media. They welcomed renowned artist Lisa Steele to the gallery to lead a two-hour tour of the exhibition of Daniel Young & Christian Giroux’s work Film Path / Camera Path with under-titles, which merges sculpture practice with film installation using high tech design and manufacturing technologies. 

First, Lisa Steele led a discussion with participants on slow looking, and invited them to read aloud the artist-contributed texts that accompanied the show, written by John Barlow, Ina Blom, Eric Cazdyn, Geoffrey Farmer, Agnieszka Gratza, Daniel Hambleton, Erín Moure, Bridget Moser, Judy Radul, Patricia Reed, Reza Negarestani, Mohammad Salemy, and Michael Snow.

Next, the visitors were encouraged to take time viewing the three different components of Young & Giroux’s work in the gallery – the film screen, the mechanical sculpture, and an LED sign displaying the texts the participants had read earlier in the session.

Image by Jennifer Toole. Courtesy of InterAccess.

We love to hear how organizations promote slow looking across diverse media, and look forward to seeing what InterAccess has in store for Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley

The Power Plant Hosts Successful Third Slow Art Day; and Mid-year Roundtable with Phil Terry

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada hosted a successful third Slow Art Day in 2019, led by Kendra Campbell, TD Curator of Education & Outreach Fellow. Kendra guided participants to look slowly at one work of art in each of three exhibitions: Shuvinai Ashoona: Mapping WorldsAlicia Henry: Witnessing; and Omar Ba: Same Dream.

She then led a group discussion about the participants’ perceptions of slow looking. They discussed their personal connections with the artworks, which revealed startling similarities.

Participants viewing work from Shuvinai Ashoona: Mapping Worlds.
Slow Art Day 2019 at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Saturday, April, 6, 2019.
Participants viewing work from Alicia Henry: Witnessing.
Slow Art Day 2019 at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Saturday, April, 6, 2019.

On Wednesday, July 3, 2019, The Power Plant also hosted Phil Terry, the founder of Slow Art Day, for a roundtable discussion with Toronto-area organizations that have hosted, or aspire to host, their own Slow Art Day. Each of the educators and curators talked about their designs for Slow Art Day, and what worked and what did not.

Phil Terry, center back of the table, meets with Toronto host venues at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Photo: Josh Heuman.

The Power Plant’s new TD Fellow, Laura Demers, will be ready to guide the next Slow Art Day on Saturday 4, April 2020, and we look forward to seeing what she has in store for the event.

– Ashley

OCAD University’s Slow Art Day Reveals Tiny Details

OCAD University Gallery in Toronto hosted a successful second Slow Art Day in 2019. They reported that both participants and guides alike enjoyed slowing down.

Both guides and participants were encouraged to look and then talk about the artworks. They made several discoveries.

First, they found how each person’s way of seeing the world affected the experience. In other words, slowing down helped them see not only the art but themselves and each other in new ways.

They also learned how the art of slow looking can reveal even the smallest details and “nuances” that seem invisible at first and then almost magically appear the longer you look.

“In the quietness of looking, our eyes wandered and caught the tiniest details in hopes of deciphering hidden nuances.”

Khadijah Morley, OCAD University Gallery Staff Member
Installation view: How to Breathe Forever, Onsite Gallery, OCAD University, Toronto, 2019 (Photo: Yuula Benivolski)

We look forward to OCAD University’s participation in Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley