'Moon Child' (moose antler and gold leaf) by Maureen Morris

‘Moon Child’ (moose antler and gold leaf) by Maureen Morris

by Shane Wilson

Rare, those moments that change everything.

My world changed completely one summer upon a visit to Whitehorse’s Yukon Gallery. Before me on the gallery wall were presented breathtakingly stunning sculptural forms, fantastic, curvaceous birds made beautiful in carved antler by Maureen Morris. The year was 1985.

I have been hooked ever since on contemporary carved antler sculpture.

from ‘Ahead of the Curve: The Fine Art Antler of Maureen Morris’

Net Positive Impact


Gaia, 2009 by Shane Wilson (moose antler, bronze)

Gaia, 2009 by Shane Wilson (moose antler, bronze – 109x122x61 cm – Haines Junction Permanent Art Collection)

“Like achieving carbon neutrality, the principle of ‘net positive impact’ should and hopefully soon will become part of mainstream business practice.”

Mark Lynas, 
The God Species

Slow Art is Clearly Thought


“When we read a sentence that is vague and feeble, we may safely assume that the writer’s thought was vague and feeble. When we read a sentence that is clear and strong, we may be sure that the writer’s thought was clear and strong. It will not do to excuse oneself by saying that one has a thought but cannot express it; if one really has it, possesses it, one can express it readily enough, since it will virtually express itself.

Style, as we have said, is the man; but style is also Man. We are all individuals, but individuals of the same species. Broadly speaking, our thoughts are those of all other men; if they were not, other men could not understand us. Even more, no doubt, our ways of thinking, the logical modes in which our minds work, are human rather than personal. And while the personal element in expression may safely be trusted to take care of itself, this impersonal element requires of us a severe discipline.”

Norman Foerster and J.M. Steadman, Jr.
Writing and Thinking, 1941

Andy Warhol Supports Slow Art

by Shane Wilson

I was surprised to learn, after Robert Hughes critical comments about Andy Warhol during the interview with Alberto Mugrabi (Robert Hughes on Slow Art), that Warhol himself did not think highly of his own artistic training and ability. In fact, he would have agreed with Hughes’ musings about the need for artists to be trained in the classical rigours of drawing and painting.

According to Dr. Gregory Hedberg, the first professional Director of the New York Academy of Art, Andy Warhol was of the belief that “the course of art history would be changed if one thousand students could be taught Old Master drawing and painting techniques.”

The New York Academy of Art is one of a growing number of schools that strive to do just that.

Warhol was a supporter of the New York Academy of Art and also served as a member of its board. Hedberg says that after Warhol’s death the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts awarded its very first grant to the New York Academy of Art and it eventually followed up with the provision of major funding.

While Hedberg moved on to other responsibilities, he retained high hopes that Warhol was right, and expected great results from the students. To his surprise, such did not turn out to be the case – at least not right away. It dawned on him, that due to the steep learning curve and sheer length of time involved in learning the classical skills of the old masters, it would be some time before the students became masters themselves and began to use their skills to express something fresh and meaningful about the contemporary world.

To describe this lengthy learning process and the resultant lengthy process involved in the creation of art work using the techniques and practices of the old masters, Hedberg decided to define this emerging school of realistic classically trained painters under the banner of Slow Art. He drafted the Slow Art Manifesto (reprinted here by The Atlanta Art Gallery), with help from some of the more prominent painters of the genre, and featured it in 2005 at group show, called, “Slow Painting: A Deliberate Renaissance.

In an article entitled, ‘A New Direction in Art Education: The New Academies, Andy Warhol and a New Aesthetic Movement’, Hedberg’s assessment of the movement is guarded, but optimistic: “While technical training has never in itself made great art, equally important, technical training has also never precluded creativity. All of the works in this exhibition reflect talent and exceptional competence in execution, while many also show the spark of genius and are quite extraordinary. Surely the truly remarkable works will increase in number over time as more and more academically trained artists succeed in their struggle to master the difficult but also rewarding language of the Old Masters and to make it their own.”

The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11, 2001, 2002-2006. Graydon Parrish (b.1970). Oil on Canvas, 76 x 210 in. New Britain Museum of American Art

David Galenson, in his book Old Masters and Young Geniuses, distinguishes between two types of artists: experimental and conceptual. While it is possible to leap onto the stage of art world stardom at an early age, he maintains those types of artists are principally conceptual – they come up with a striking new idea, for which they become famous. The experimental artists work at their craft over a period of years, decades even, continuously learning, growing, striving to improve, to express an inner vision of beauty or perfection. No doubt the modern realists fall into the later category and Hedberg is right to be patient and to describe their art as slow.

Graydon Parrish, a New York Academy alumnus, was one of the signatories and contributors to the Slow Art Manifesto. He created this commissioned painting to commemorate the American experience of 9-11, called ‘The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy’. The painting took four years to complete. It seems to be a pretty solid indication that Hedberg’s hopes and Warhol’s prophesy may well be correct!

Graydon Parrish at work on ‘The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy’

While I support many of the tenets of this Slow Art Manifesto, I would prefer to see its scope broadened to include other schools of art and other media (particularly sculptural!), which strive to achieve  similar ends – art that is beautiful, meaningful, original and timeless.

But that does not dampen my enthusiasm for the revival of classical methods in painting and the insights about Slow Art that it engenders – that the skill and ability to make great art takes time to learn and incorporate – that there is no shortcut on the creative road to an expression of genius.

Money well spent, Andy!

Slow Originality


“Each [artist] must achieve his own personal manner of expression, his own style, reflecting his personal mode of thought and feeling. He does not think and feel precisely like any other man. He should be original in the right sense of the word, obedient to his vision of truth and beauty, never in the false sense of posing for what he is not, cultivating a superficial oddity.”

Norman Foerster and J.M. Steadman, Jr.
Writing and Thinking, 1941

Robert Hughes on Slow Art

by Shane Wilson

When an idea’s time has come, it seems to spring up fresh and new all over, like psychic water bursting simultaneously through multiple leaks in the dam of contemporary orthodoxy.

Slow Art is an idea whose time has come.

The Australian art critic, Robert Hughes, has arrived at the idea of Slow Art through the experience and rejection of much of Modern and Contemporary Art.

In the following video clip, from Hughes 1982 TV series, ‘The Shock of the New’, Hughes laments much of the art created during the 1960’s and 70’s: “I don’t think there has ever been such a rush towards insignificance in the name of the historical future as we have seen in the last fifteen years.”

In 2009, he interviews Alberto Mugrabi (below), a wealthy collector of Contemporary Art. The interview provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain at one of Contemporary Art’s largest patrons, which is at once instructive and revealing. (For a reaction to the interview, see the Art Market Monitor blog here.)

Clearly, there is little to be gained by pillorying Contemporary Art. Elsewhere, I have written, “Art reflects and interprets the world in which it is created and serves as a kind of record, going forward, of who we are.” Contemporary Art needs to be understood in context, as a reflection of our contemporary world, it’s excess and superficiality.

So it is apt that Hughes maintains Contemporary Art “aspires to the condition of musak – it provides the background hum for power.” On a parallel note, during an encounter with Contemporary Artist Damien Hirst’s sculpture ‘The Virgin Mother’, Hughes quips, “Isn’t it a miracle, what so much money and so little ability can produce!”

In The Guardian, in September 2008, Hughes vilifies Hirst as a “a pirate, whose skill is shown by the way in which he has managed to bluff so many into giving credence to his originality and the importance of his ‘ideas’.” This prescient observation (accusation?) identifies with precision how closely Hirst and his contemporaries truly reflect this age.

Those who brought about the global financial meltdown, one month later, in October 2008, are among the primary collectors of Contemporary Art. Is it surprising these fiscal pirates, whose derivative deception has wrought such financial hardship on the world, used the fruits of their deception (bail outs and bonuses) to acquire even more? This is the context of Contemporary Art.

No wonder there are protests on Wall Street! High time for a change in the world and also, according to Hughes, in the world of art.

In a speech delivered at the Royal Academy Dinner in 2004, entitled, “We Need Slow Art” and in the above video clip advocating the return to hard skills in art making, Hughes suggests the following, by way of his own protest and as a way forward for the art world:

We have had a gutful of fast art and fast food. What we need more of is Slow Art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and making whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in ten seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.

Slow Art is an idea whose time has come.


by Serena Kovalosky

In recent years, I’ve been tempted to find a way to speed things up a bit. Produce more work, loosen the detail, simplify the process. I really don’t want to, but I feel I might have to in order to maintain a sustainable income level. I’m not the only artist who’s considering this. I’ve had many conversations with my contemporaries and we are all looking for ways to produce in a more efficient, cost-effective manner.

Then I came across Shane’s blog post and exhaled for the first time in months. I can’t work any other way. I have to take the time to sit with my raw materials, especially the gourds – to hold them in my hands, and see what they have to say. I can’t just start cutting away at a piece – I carve a little at a time to allow the material to incorporate the energy shifts that take place with every chip that falls to the ground.

from The Value of Slow Art

Saving Slow from Slur

by Shane Wilson

Why choose ‘slow’ to describe art? Isn’t ‘slow’ a negative word? Doesn’t ‘slow’ really mean stupid, dull or boring? After all, who wants a slow computer or internet connection, slow service when in need of repairs or food, a slow car, or be considered slow on the uptake? Why not look for a synonym or find another descriptor entirely?

I’d like to think that words have meaning in context. The context here is art. And who wants a piece of art that is dashed off, derivative, made in a hurry, or thoughtless?

Dall Sheep Duality, 2004 by Shane Wilson (dall sheep horns and skull)

Dall Sheep Duality, 2004 by Shane Wilson (dall sheep horns and skull - 42x58x23 cm - private collection)

Often, one of the first questions an artist gets asked about their work is “How long did that take to make?” The usual answer, for pieces done quickly, is “All my life.” Slow art, on the other hand, is done slowly, it takes time, so there is always a less coy, more concrete response to the question.

We recognize inherently the value of slow art, because we value our own lives and the limited time we have on this earth. We are constantly asking the question: what is worth doing, how should we spend our time?

When an artist choses to invest days, months or years of their life into a particular painting or sculpture or work of art, they offer their answer to this question. Their art takes on a palpable depth and meaning, elevated from idea or gesture, it pulsates with Life itself.

And we know it.

Slow Art Day

by Shane Wilson

“Slow Art does not recognize video in its field. Showing images at 22 per second is not slow. Showing one image (usually called a painting) for 2 or 3 centuries is more our speed.” Gerald Kortello, Slow Artist

Gerry’s tongue and cheek quote expresses something of the value of appreciating art slowly – slow art from the experiential point of view. It is a matter of record that most people, when visiting an art gallery, tend to zoom through, spending 17 seconds or less looking at each painting or sculpture.

Slow Art Day, the brainchild of Phil Terry from New York, was started to invite novices – and experts – to experience the art of looking at art slowly.

It’s a very simple process. Volunteer hosts (not necessarily experts) invite people to come to a local museum and view a small number of works of art for 5 to 10 minutes each. Then everyone meets for lunch at a nearby cafe to talk about their experience. And all this happens the same day around the world.

The result? Participants say they get “inspired not tired” and plan to return to that museum or gallery again and again (note: our not-so-secret agenda is to help more people experience the excitement of art and become regular patrons of their local museums).

The alpha test for Slow Art Day occurred in the summer of 2009 at MoMA in New York with four people. The success of that first, small experiment, a larger “beta” test took place in October 2009, which featured 16 museums and galleries in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Attendee feedback was so enthusiastic that it was decided to make Slow Art day an annual global event.

Slow Art Day 2010 – Saturday, April 17 – was the first truly global Slow Art Day and it featured volunteers hosting slow viewing sessions at 50+ museums, galleries and churches around the world (every continent except Antarctica). It was a big success – and all powered by volunteer effort without any funding or official support.

Slow Art Day 2011 kicked off in December 2010 when the scientists at McMurdo Station in Antarctica hosted the first Slow Art Day of the season. On Saturday, April 16, 2011, 90+ sites followed the Antarctic kickoff to host Slow Art Day on every other continent. Hundreds of volunteers – including a global team – made Slow Art Day 2011 possible. Still with no funding, this simple idea has proven that the general public wants to slow down and see art in a way that can inspire.

Slow Art Day 2012 is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2012. If you would like to participate as a ‘host’ there is a sign up form and information page here. No experience is necessary. To find out more about Slow Art Day check out the website here. Slow Art Day was also featured in the April 2011 issue of Art News.