Slow Art

Slow art is a term I used as the title of my first website; I felt that it encapsulated the philosophy behind my work and my growing sense of frustration with a Pop Art hangover attitude that art should be easily produced, consumed and discarded, like any other commodity in our throw-away society. It was only later that I read ‘Shock of the new’ and found, to my intense embarrassment, that Robert Hughes had used the term before me, albeit for similar reasons. I took the website down, for a number of reasons, but this was not the least of them.

Despite this, I am reluctant to completely abandon the term. An artist I  recently exhibited with commented on the way in which my work had grown on him and his partner as they had staffed the gallery. The more they looked, the more they saw, and delighted in (to the extent that they ended up buying a piece, surely the ultimate compliment). I too am engaged by pieces that draw the viewer in, and my earliest memory of being totally engaged with an artist’s work was standing in front of John Martin’s ‘The Great Day of His Wrath’ in the Tate Britain when I was six. I was absorbed, absolutely, by the scale and depth of the piece, and the more I looked, the more I saw. I have other influences, of which I may speak at a later date, but John Martin was the first, and to him I owe my belief that a painting should do more than simply communicate. It should engage; absorb; enable the viewer to step into it, become lost in its depths, and explore.

Slow Art seems an appropriate term to describe work that encourages these responses. To experience a painting requires the viewer to take time out from the hectic pace of the life we lead in these days of mass consumer obsolescence and internet urgency, of insecure jobs and economic uncertainty. The term provides one possible key to the role of art in a period where its purpose as a means of communication and commentary seems to have been supplanted by more widely accessible media. In a soundbite world of flash images we receive much information, but are not encouraged to process it. Art can take us to a place outside of our immediacy to reconnect with the joy, beauty and sublimity of our existence, and our roles and responsibilities in preserving it. To do this art must encourage us to slow our thoughts, shut out the noise, and let go of the instant to the point at which we can reflect.

I hope that my work reaches this standard I have set for myself. I hope that the viewer enjoys the nooks and crannies of my paintings, takes the time to explore, and let the image grow. Like any artist, my vision of the world is unique, and to me a successful painting not only communicates that vision, but engages to the point where the viewer is drawn in to the world I see.

Out with the old

Out with the old

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2 thoughts on “Slow Art

  1. I like this idea of ‘slow art’ very much; art that doesn’t give it all up in one go, like a Big Mac; art that demands your attention, both intellectual and emotional, and repays that attention every time you engage with it. The best books can be re-read endlessly with no diminution of pleasure; the same is true of anything done with real skill and a unique imagination.
    Keep on, John!

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