the gentle practice of becoming lost in flow


Nature does not hurry,
yet everything is accomplished.
– Lao Tzu


Amanda Robins:   Slow Art: Meditative Process in Painting and Drawing

While Robins’ approach is wholly academic (this is her PhD Thesis) and her research is based around psychological theory, the results of her inquiry into meditative process and practice within her own – and others’ – work show clearly that, while the terms and concepts may vary, the experience remains identical for each artisan. This site, thanks to its writer’s proclivities, bases its inquiry more around ‘spiritual’ (nondual) notions, but in the end it all boils down to the same thing: losing oneself in the mysterious, immeasurable, movement of creation.

Robins identifies five aspects of art practice which might lead to the meditative state: “The kind of work and work practices that can facilitate this state enable the artist to develop a relationship with the work and to be immersed within it.”

– entering flow
– compression or controlled intensity
– use of either the ’emblem’ or the ‘field’ in composition
– compulsion
– commitment

She then examines the work of a selection of historical and contemporary artists from the perspective of these practices – including her own. Her deep and insightful observations about her practice offer a refreshing antidote to a topic seldom commented on, or inquired into, by artists themselves, but rather by theorists and philosophers. It’s a most welcome exegesis, one that I am delighted to find has now been published for a wider audience.

Amanda Robins: Slow Art - Painting and Drawing as a Meditative Process

Slow Art:
Painting and Drawing as a Meditative Process

– Amanda Robins

The physical act of making and our immersion in this activity is the initial doorway to the productive ordering of consciousness known as ‘flow’. It is through this essential aspect that we can lose the sense of ourselves as separate and unique beings and become one with the activity.

The flow experience constitutes a time outside of the ordinary sequence of daily events where clock time loses its meaning and the constant stream of internal dialogue is for the moment, stilled.

The immersion within the world of the ordinary object leads ironically to new ways of seeing ourselves. … The everyday becomes a way of making connections and creating metaphors which can speak, in the end, about the ineffable.

Amanda Robins

Amanda Robins at the artisans’ gallery

Nobody sees a flower – really –
it is so small it takes time – and to see takes time,
like to have a friend takes time.
– Georgia O’Keeffe

Time is not a line,
but a series of now points.
– Taisen Deshimaru

Without haste,
but without rest.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The camera, if it’s lucky, may tell a different truth to drawing – but not a truer one. Drawing brings us into a different, a deeper and more fully experienced relation to the object. A good drawing says: “not so fast, buster”. 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 whose skill and doggedness makes you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.

– Robert Hughes in The Guardian, June 2004

Robert Hughes: Nothing If Not Critical

Nothing If Not Critical:
Selected Essays on Art and Artists

– Robert Hughes

It used to be that media-based, photo-derived art looked almost automatically ‘interesting’. It cut to the chase instantly, it mimicked the media-glutted state of general consciousness, it was democratic—sort of. The high priest of this situation was of course the hugely influential Andy Warhol, paragon of fast art. I am sure that though his influence probably will last (if only because it renders artmaking easier for the kiddies) his paragonhood won’t, and despite the millions now paid for his Lizzes and Elvises, he will shrink to relative insignificance, a historical figure whose resonance is used up. There will be a renewed interest—not for everyone, of course, but for those who actually know and care about the issues—in slow art: art that takes time to develop on the retina and in the mind, that sees instant communication as the empty fraud it is, that relates strongly to its own traditions.

– Robert Hughes, ‘That’s Showbusiness’, The Guardian, March 2007

Tao, without doing anything, leaves nothing undone.
– Tao Te Ching (37)

Less and less is done, ’till only non-action remains.
Nothing is done, yet nothing is left undone.
– Tao Te Ching (48)

We all know the feeling of being in the flow of things. At such times, we lose ourselves in our activity. Writers frequently have this experience when the words seem to simply pour onto the page and they have no idea what the next line is going to be until they write it.

Most athletes also have moments when suddenly everything clicks and they manage to perform beyond their normal capacity. There are sometimes moments during lovemaking when lovers melt into a union that knows no separate individuality. Or what about narrowly averted accidents on the highway where you later wonder just who was steering the car? I’m sure if you think about it, you have had several such experiences in which you forgot yourself and everything seemed to magically fall into place.

This forgetfulness is very different from forgetting your friend’s birthday or where you put your glasses. Nor is it like the absent-mindedness induced by too much booze or too many tranquillizers. It is a forgetfulness that is alert and alive. This losing oneself in the flow is a taste of what is meant by “the action of non-action.”

– Leo Hartong, From Self to Self

Leo Hartong: From Self to Self

From Self to Self
– Leo Hartong

The demon of speed is often associated with forgetting, with avoidance…
and slowness with memory and confronting.
– Milan Kundera, Slowness

Finally, I surfaced and wondered where the time had gone.
Had the painting painted itself or had I a hand in it?
– Ann Manry Kenyon

If we but give it time, a work of art ‘can rap and knock and enter our souls’ and re-align us
– all our molecules – to make us whole again.
– P K Page

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