Saturday 8th April was Slow Art Day. This is an international movement, launched in 2010, dedicated to encouraging people to spend more time engaging with art. Since its launch, over 1200 Slow Art Day events have taken place in 700 venues and this year over 196 venues across the world participated. The Shipley Art Gallery was one of the venues and collaborated with Mindful Therapies to run an event.
We don’t need to be experts to look at and appreciate art. However, quite often people feel excluded from art because they feel that they do not know enough. People might feel that their opinions are ill-informed and less valid than others. However, real art appreciation is a subjective experience. To appreciate art is to engage with your senses and to allow the piece of art to have an impact on us. Mindfulness is about non-judgement and so our experience of art is our own individual experience and cannot be right or wrong.
Slow Art Day at the Shipley art gallery
In the Shipley, five of us met for an hour in the lounge. We practiced a short meditation and then went through to the main gallery. We picked out three items to look at, a quilt, a painting, and a ceramic piece, spending ten minutes on each. As we looked, we asked ourselves the following questions:
1. How do you feel when looking at this piece of art? What emotion(s) do you experience? Any felt sensations in the body?
2. Is there anything in this piece of art that you are drawn to? Is there any aspect that you don’t like?
3. Does this piece of art remind you of anything?
4. If you could ask this piece of art a question what would you ask?
It turns out that ten minutes is a really long time to look at a piece of art! I was timing as I was looking, so I could ring the bell in between and I was really conscious of the length of time. Were people getting bored? Is this too long? Is this going to work? And at the same time I noticed my own experience of boredom and interest. I would become bored for a while and then something new would catch my interest. My feelings and perspective on each piece changed when looking from a distance and when looking more closely. I noticed detail as well as the full image. And I noticed the temptation to wander off and look at something else.
Afterwards we had a discussion about our experience. Some experiences were shared and others were very different. But what was shared was a sense that we usually wouldn’t allow ourselves the time to fully look, that we rush through galleries so quickly that we do not give art the time it deserves. Perhaps we also do this in life. And we also agreed that, although staying with it for ten minutes was a challenge, it was a valuable exercise and one that is well worth repeating.
Find out more
At Mindful Therapies we are hoping to run more events in conjunction with Tyne and Wear Museums. Keep checking our website for information on upcoming events or sign up to our newsletter.