After the first draft of a Slow Art Manifesto was written, Graydon Parrish discovered Carl Honore’s new book, In Praise of Slowness, published by Harper Collins in 2004. Honore documents a worldwide movement that is challenging the cult of speed. He cites numerous examples of “Slow Movements” in food, music, urban planning, child rearing, sex, and much more. According to Honore, the Slow Food Movement was started by Carlo Petrini in 1986 after McDonald’s opened a branch beside the Spanish Steps in Rome and now the movement boasts 60,000 members worldwide. [Honore’s 2004 book says 28,000 members, but their web site now says 60,000 members, so the Slow Food movement’s growth is rather fast.] For music Honore cites the Tempo Giusto movement that defends the subtleties of music that have been lost in the vogue to play the classics at an ever-faster pace. In Italy, more than 60 towns have joined a slow cities movement, and a new generation of urban planners is focusing on ways to slow people down instead of rushing them through an urban environment. [Honore’s 2004 book says 28,000 members, but their web site now says 60,000 members, so the Slow Food movement’s growth is rather fast.] For music Honore cites the Tempo Giusto movement that defends the subtleties of music that have been lost in the vogue to play the classics at an ever-faster pace. In Italy, more than 60 towns have joined a slow cities movement, and a new generation of urban planners is focusing on ways to slow people down instead of rushing them through an urban environment. Honore also cites numerous slow sex movements in Italy there is even a web site, www.slowsex.it! As May West observed: “If it is worth doing well, it is worth doing slow.”
In his book, Honore posits that the slow movement had its origins in the 1960s when “the counter culture earthquake inspired millions to slow down and live more simply.” Although he only mentions art in passing - as a new slow pastime for an increasing number of hobbyists in the 1960s, Fine Art also started to gradually slow down after the frenetic generation of the Abstract Expressionist. The art world, however, like a huge oil tanker going full speed, does not slow down quickly.
A google search of the term ‘slow art’ after a second draft of the manifesto was written also turned up comments made by Robert Hughes at the Royal Academy Dinner in June 2004, under a by-line “We Need Slow Art.” In his address the noted art critic stated: “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. In a word, art that is the very opposite of mass media. For no spiritually authentic art can beat mass media at their own game.”
Eventually the term Slow Art came to be embraced. As Graydon Parrish noted, as in the case of other art movements, like Cubism, Surrealism or Pop Art, new art terms initially meant little, but came to be defined by the visual qualities of the works of art themselves.
SLOW ART: First, the name ‘Slow Art’ represents the lengthy training necessary to produce the type of art made by the artists in the group. The term also came from a comment made by Jacob Collins that the first thing a new student had to do when entering his atelier in New York City was to slow down the pace. Dan Graves also frequently would point out how viewing this type of art requires the viewer to slow down to appreciate the subtleties not immediately observed in a quick glance.
The term Slow Art also reflects the studied creative process used by the group. These artists usually put an inordinate amount of time into each work of art. For example, Graydon Parrish has now spent over two years working on an enormous painting commissioned by The New Britain Museum of Art, and Jimmy Sanders produces only four or five meticulous paintings a year. This is a pace that easily frustrates these artists’ various dealers. The small output also makes exhibitions of their works difficult as works are often sold as soon as they arrive to collectors on a waiting list. Another example is Randy Melick, a consummate draftsman, who has a poky but methodical creative process that rivals Pontormo’s. Melick kept George Goldner, Curator of Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, waiting four years to see a broader selection of his drawings.
The term Slow Art also nicely points to the difference between these artists and a previous generation of Photo Realists. While both are realists, paintings executed by this younger group are painted from life, evince a variety of brushwork, and represent life caught through atmosphere, studied, and revered, a sort of timelessness slowly and carefully caught by the brush. On the other hand, Photo Realists paintings are usually sharply focused, deliberately flat, and depict life captured at a sudden standstill in a split second of time, like in the flash of a camera.
New York Realists, Old Master Realists, and Donald Kuspit’s term the New Old Masters, as well as, ART GRADATIM, and ARTISANAL were also proposed as titles for the movement, but while descriptive, such nomenclature seemed too narrow, or backward looking, or obtuse.
USE OF PHOTOGRAPHY: After the ‘final’ draft of the Manifesto, the artist John Morra launched a discussion as to whether the manifesto should say anything about the use of photographs. A lot of realist painters today take a photo, blow it up, and then copy it in oil. The artists here, on the other hand, paint from life which is amazingly harder and much more time consuming. Jacob Collins made the analogy that an artist working from life, with changing atmosphere and light, is like a cook who grinds his or her own shallots and spices, and thereby gets a real feel for the actual objects themselves, their texture and smell, while working from a photo places a barrier between the artist and the real world.
A proposed addition to the manifesto was then proposed that stated: “We affirm the value of working from life and therefore reject the copying of photographs in oil.
Regarding the use of photography, Graydon Parrish then argued:
“I think it’s the perspective, outlook of the artist. Delacroix, Degas, Tissot, Gauguin, Gerome, Bouguereau, Rodin, Munch and Picasso all used photography. Ingres did as well. One cannot say that they created their art less thoughtfully. Maxfield Parrish used photos for everything. His process of glazing was as slow as it gets. What I want to stress is that we aim for the qualities of life: atmosphere, a sense of light, a three-d appearance to our modeling.