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May 08 2011
My father turns 87 this year and while he still lives on his own in a tiny apartment, his health has deteriorated to the point that he can barely get around inside his own little home let alone venture out anywhere. He now orders his regular groceries by phone and frequently laments about the bland, tasteless quality of any fruit that he receives. He doesn't even order fruit anymore even though it should be good for his health to include it in his daily diet. The stuff looks like strawberries, or nectarines, or plums, but in a blind taste test you'd be hard-pressed to identify which is what. Walk by any fruit stand today at Granville Island Market and you'll see tourists snapping photographs of the colourful displays (I always wonder what the hell they do with those photographs Ė "...and here are some apples we saw in Vancouver"). They look so appealing, but can you smell anything? Hold a nectarine right up against your nostrils and inhale deeply: nothing. What do you think it tastes like? Like so many other things today, our fruit has been bred to be fast to grow, easy to transport, and to retain its appearance as long as possible so it can be sold. The aim is efficiency (i.e. cheapness) at the expense of flavour, and even though flavour is the one thing that makes eating a pleasurable experience, people buy and eat this stuff all the time because many no longer know anything else.

Fast food restaurants proliferate daily at staggering rates. They produce absolute crap to which they have learned to give the appearance of delicious food. In my opinion the chemical foam that has been shaped into a hamburger bun should not legally be allowed to be called a "bun". But it looks like a bun, and it's cheap, so eventually billions are sold through intensive marketing efforts, until the population has come to believe that what they are eating is what a bun should be. Put it in a jar and save it for 6 months and it still looks like a bun. You can fool the people, but you can't fool the microbes that rely on real food for their sustenance (and possibly even pleasure).

Of course, my observations on this are hardly original, and an international Slow Food movement to counteract this proliferation of fast food was actually started in 1986 by Carlo Petrini. I'm not sure it has changed much, but maybe it has slowed the spread of this epidemic. We can only hope.

Like food, art has fallen victim to this trend to speed, efficiency, superficiality, and, dare I say it, cheapness. If there hasn't yet been a movement in support of "slow art", perhaps it's time.

It's time somebody let the general public know that a "pliene aire" sketch of a barely recognizable landscape whipped off in a few minutes is nothing more than a very preliminary rough outline of what might be turned into a serious painting. It is not a finished work of art any more than that thing sandwiching a Big Mac patty of "beef" is a bread bun.

It's time we acknowledged that two blue stripes flanking one red stripe on a large canvas is nothing more than a large colour swatch. Although created with paint, it can't be called a painting because it has no more flavour than an odourless nectarine.

As I have mentioned before, I suspect the elevation of "paucity" as a painterly virtue is possibly no more than a marketing ploy to cover up a lack of talent, or a lack of skill, or a need to produce quantity, or a complete lack of respect for the viewer, or, more than likely, all of the above.

The latest trend towards producing and selling a painting a day should be exposed for what it really is Ė just a painter's warm-up exercises, like a pianist's playing of scales before getting down to work. What self-respecting musician would record and sell his scales practice, passing that off as music? Athletes stretch their muscles before a competition because they need to do that to compete in the marathon; singers loosen their vocal chords before going on stage because they need to do that before their performance. It is the performance that is what it is all about, not the pre-performance exercises which are done quietly off stage in preparation. The art world is now convincing the public that a painter's warm-up exercises are the performance. And if they believe that Wonder Bread is really bread, we know the public is easily convinced.

Last year I did a demo of a certain technique I use for a smooth, seamless transition from dark to light using acrylics. One of the artists in attendance commented that it looked like a lot of work. I agreed that it was a bit of work, to which she commented "But I thought painting was supposed to be fun". Heavens, I thought, we wouldn't want to be putting any effort into it out of respect for the people we want to buy our "work" would we? But I didn't say it. Is there a Carlo Petrini out there for a Slow Art movement?
Posted by Peter Kiidumae at 04:04
Ann said...
Well Iíd hate to see the schmushed up messes I would produce if I ever attempted to do a painting a day. IMO, a painting a day must be good practice for those who have no life other than painting, but I wonder when they would have time to actually create a good quality painting if they are spending time on their "painting of the day"? Or do they ever? May 08, 2011 06:53
Peter said...
As you know, Ann, I have a full time day job so I have a really hard time understanding how anyone can fritter away their precious painting time doing these one-a-day specials, nor do I understand why they do it. May 08, 2011 08:46
Mike Kehoe said...
Great blog entry Peter...The Slow Food movement is alive & well here in Alberta! Mike K. May 09, 2011 07:24
Peter said...
Thanks, Mike. Iíll always remember being in a steak house in Calgary many years ago, and at the bottom of the menu it said "If you want your steak well done, please go somewhere else". May 09, 2011 09:11
Anonymous said...
I hope that there will always be painters and buyers out there who appreciate what talent it really takes to produce a quality painting. Like most things there are alway people who want to profit from the uneducated masses. Appreciated your comments Peter and I know there are many of us who want to stay true to what we know as quality painting. Viv May 11, 2011 08:02
Peter said...
To be clear, Viv, I donít doubt that many of the artists on this painting-a-day kick are very talented, but itís sort of like having chefs from 5-star restaurants grilling burgers all day. Surely they could put those talents to more worthwhile endeavors. In my opinion all they are doing is lowerinng the publicís expectations and taste for fine art. The same people that believe that foam around their burger is a bun are being convinced that a painterís warm-up exercise is a work of fine art. May 11, 2011 09:37
Ava said...
As the market is booming like those requirements from small hotels for decoration this seems a unavoided trend, all like a FLOOD. I am not very eduacated in art but I have a strong interest in it. Hope there IS a Slow movement for this.Art needs real appreciation. May 14, 2011 08:58
Peter said...
Thanks for your comments Ava, and sorry for my delayed response. Iíve been preoccupied with studio tour stuff and day job demands. I donít think any "trend" is unavoidable. It just takes enough people to put their foot down and say "Hey, Iím not buying into this baloney". The problem is that not enough people have the gumption to do that. Just look at all the men that still wear suits and ties to work every day. Jun 01, 2011 10:10