How to write an Artist Statement

 15th July 2017

artists-statement
Calvin & Hobbes on artist statements. Cartoon by Bill Watterson, July 15, 1995

Today I attended a workshop at Ruthin Craft Centre on How to write an Artist Statement hosted by Helfa Gelf and run by Sara Roberts.

My reason for attending this workshop was to gain some perspective on the issue of writing an artist statement and perhaps some insight on how I can improve my own artist statements.

I found this workshop to be particularly useful and it did, in fact give me some clarity about what to use when writing an artist statement.

We spent some time looking at things to consider when writing an Artist Statement including what not to include. When then spent some time discussing existing Artist Statements that were taken from Axisweb. We then were paired up and spent some time peer reviewing each others Artist Statements.

It became clear to me that the Artist Statements being described and discussed were somewhat different to the Artist Statements that I have produced as part of the Fine Art Degree and it was made clear that you adjust your Artist Statement to the audience.

Some of the key points I took away:

  • Start with a Good short sentence – this is to help the audience want to keep reading.
  • Keep it short – long wordy sentences don’t keep the audience engaged.
  • Avoid Art Speak – using art speak will exclude some people from understanding your statement.
  • Make it informative and engaging.
  • Avoid discussing other artists or making generalised statements – Stick to the Truth.
  • Avoid using Quotes.
  • Talk about You – make it personal and human.
  • Use What, Why, Where, When, How.
  • Talk about your process – do say how make your work – explain How.
  • Talk about your theme/inspiration – explain Why.
  • Talk about how your theme is expressed through your work.

I definitely left inspired to create a short Artist Statement that describes me at this moment in time, with a view to keeping this updated as time progresses and my artwork changes.

This is quoted from https://www.gyst-ink.com/artist-statement-guidelines/

Artists can send their artist statement for professional review. GYST submission policies, examples of artist statements, and writing tips are found below:

What Is an Artist’s Statement?

  1. A general introduction to your work, a body of work, or a specific project.
  2. It should open with the work’s basic ideas in an overview of two or three sentences or a short paragraph.
  3. The second paragraph should go into detail about how these issues or ideas are presented in the work.
  4. If writing a full-page statement, you can include some of the following points:
    • Why you have created the work and its history.
    • Your overall vision.
    • What you expect from your audience and how they will react.
    • How your current work relates to your previous work.
    • Where your work fits in with current contemporary art.
    • How your work fits in with the history of art practice.
    • How your work fits into a group exhibition, or a series of projects you have done.
    • Sources and inspiration for your images.
    • Artists you have been influenced by or how your work relates to other artists’ work. Other influences.
    • How this work fits into a series or longer body of work.
    • How a certain technique is important to the work.
    • Your philosophy of art making or of the work’s origin.
  5. The final paragraph should recapitulate the most important points in the statement.

What an Artist’s Statement is NOT:

  1. Pomposity, writing a statement about your role in the world.
  2. Grandiose and empty expressions and clichés about your work and views.
  3. Technical and full of jargon.
  4. Long dissertations or explanations.
  5. Discourses on the materials and techniques you have employed.
  6. Poems or prosy writing.
  7. Folksy anecdotes about some important event in your life.
  8. Nothing about your childhood or family unless it is very relevant to your work.
  9. Not a brag fest or a press release.

Why Write an Artist’s Statement?

  1. Writing an artist’s statement can be a good way to clarify your own ideas about your work.
  2. A gallery dealer, curator, docent, or the public can have access to your description of your work, in your own words. This can be good for a reviewer as well.
  3. Useful in writing a proposal for an exhibition or project.
  4. It is often required when applying for funding.
  5. It is often required when applying to graduate school.
  6. It can be a good idea to include an artist’s statement when your slides are requested for review or your work is included in the slide library of a college or university.
  7. Good to refer to when you are preparing a visiting artist lecture, or someone else is lecturing or writing about your work.
  8. Useful when you are applying for a teaching position.
  9. Good idea when a press release is being written.
  10. Useful when someone is writing about your work in a catalog or magazine.
  11. Useful when someone else is writing a bio for a program brochure.
  12. It is a good way to introduce your work to a buying public. Often the more a buyer knows about your work the more they become interested in what you do, and in purchasing a work.

Types of Artist’s Statements You Might Need.

  1. Full-Page Statement: This statement you will use most often; it speaks generally about your work, the methods you may have used, the history of your work, etc. It may also include specific examples of your current work or project.
  2. Short Statement: A shorter statement that includes the above in an abbreviated way, or is specific to the project at hand.
  3. Short Project Statement: A very short statement about the specific project you are presenting.
  4. Bio: Often a short description of your career as an artist and your major accomplishments.

How Should I Write It?

  1. This most often depends on the context where it will appear. Who is your reader? What assumptions can you make about their knowledge?
    • Emotional tone
    • Theoretical (but not over-the-top)
    • Academic (but not dry)
    • Analytic
    • Humorous
    • Antagonistic
    • Political
    • Professional
  2. Ask yourself “What are you trying to say in the work?” “What influences my work?” “How do my methods of working (techniques, style, formal decisions) support the content of my work?” “What are specific examples of this in my work” “Does this statement conjure up any images?”
  3. Use a word processor so that you can make changes and update it often. You should keep older copies so that you can refer to them if you should need to write or talk about your older work or if you have a retrospective.
  4. Refer to yourself in the first person, not as “the artist”.  Make it come from you. Make it singular, not general, and reflective of yourself and your work.
  5. Make it clear and direct, concise and to the point.
  6. It should not be longer than one page.
  7. Use no smaller than 10 – 12 point type. Some people have trouble reading very small type.
  8. Artist’s statements are usually single-spaced.
  9. Do not use fancy fonts or tricky formatting. The information should wow them, not the graphic design.

Considerations:

  1. Who is your audience? What level are you writing for?
  2. What will your statement be used for?
  3. What does your statement say about you as an artist and a professional?

Style:

  1. Be honest.
  2. Try to capture your own speaking voice.
  3. Avoid repetition of phrases and words. Look for sentences that say the same thing you said before, but in a different way. Choose the better of the two.
  4. Vary sentence structure and length. The length of a sentence should relate to the complexity of the idea.
  5. Organization of detail is important. Significant ideas should be at the end of each sentence for emphasis.

Where Should It Go?

  1. In a binder at the front of the gallery with your résumé, list of artworks, and past reviews or articles about your work.
  2. You may want to hang it on the wall, regular size, or enlarged as a didactic statement.
  3. Include it in a program for performance, screening, or panel.
  4. In the application package of the grant you are applying for.
  5. Give to anyone who you feel would benefit from the information.

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