Artists’ statements

Exercise 5.7 Prepare your artist’s statement

An artist’s statement is sometimes referred to as a ‘statement of intent’. It can be seen as a marketing device, or simply as a means of describing practitioners’ interests. They:

  • vary in terms of their length and the details they cover.
  • may relate to a specific body of work or it may talk about practice more generally. probably contains information about any training (art college or other qualifications or experience relevant to their practice) and prizes, grants or awards that the artist has won, which are relevant to their practice. But is not the same thing as an artist’s CV, which lists any training, qualifications, awards, exhibitions and publications in much the same way as a conventional résumé.
  • huge variety in the style and format of artists’ statements; some will sound convoluted and esoteric and others will be more down to earth.

The Artist Statement (UCA)

A good artist statement will support your professional practice, for example:

  • Giving brief information to support an exhibition or catalogue
  • Submitting a proposal
  • Applying for a grant

It should be:

  • Concise
  • Effective in communicating the details you wish to emphasize
  • Written in the first person
  • Written primarily in the present tense

It should be adaptable in order to take into account:

  • Your audience
  • Your purpose or motivation for writing it

It might contain information on:

What your motivation is for the work you do:

  • What issues are you exploring and why?
  • What concepts, themes or convictions underpin your work?
  • How do your life experiences influence your work
  • How does your personality influence your work?
  • How have your ideas developed?

The techniques and materials you use:

  •  How and why did you choose them?
  • What scale do you work in?
  • Do you have a particular process of working?
  • Do you intend to explore other techniques or materials?

Your background:

  • Are you a student or a practicing artist?
  • Details of your educational history if you feel it appropriate
  • Have you contributed to any prestigious shows or events?

How you contextualise your work:

  • Where do you feel you fit into the Contemporary Art World?
  • Does your work challenge the work of others?
  • Have you appropriated or referred to the work of others?
  • Your goals and aspirations and to what extent you have realised them
  • Personal reflections on your work

Examples from coursebook

On the front page of Alec Soth’s website he writes:

“My name is Alec Soth (rhymes with ‘both’). I live in Minnesota. I like to
take pictures and make books. I also have a business called Little Brown
Mushroom.” (http://alecsoth.com/photography)

This is clearly very understated, perhaps even flippant, and it takes a reputation that precedes oneself to be able to write something as laconic as this! Often, an artist’s statement is written by another person (or is designed to sound as if it is by being written in the third person), which adds gravitas.

Jorma Puranen’s introduction to Imaginary Homecoming is somewhat more convoluted,
although it provides a thoughtful definition of landscape:

“A landscape is speechless. Day by day, its only idiom is the sensory
experience afforded by the biological reality, the weather conditions, and
the actions that take place in the environment. However, we can also
assume that a landscape has another dimension: the potential but invisible
field of possibilities nourished by everyday perceptions, lived experiences,
different histories, narratives and fantasies. In fact, any understanding of
landscape entails a succession of distinct moments and different points
of view. The layeredness of landscape, in other words, forms part of our
own projection. Every landscape is also a mental landscape.” (Jorma Puranen,1999, Foreword to Imaginary Homecoming, Oulu: Pohjoinen)

This statement about the work of Ola Kolehmainen is a good example of how a method of
presentation is linked to the concept of the work:

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