This blog was created as a venue for printmakers in Malaysia to come together and share ideas, information and facilities.
We also would like to create awareness, spread the love for printmaking!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

How to write an Artist Statement

Many artists have significant problems when it comes to talking or writing about their work, primarily with reference to conceptual matters. Let’s look at a few ways to overcome the challenge of writing a great artist statement.

1, Become a salesperson

Often creators don’t think of themselves as sales-people and forget that the best pitch always comes from the source. And let’s be honest; without concepts and fiscal goals, it is nearly impossible to become a professional artist. Hobbyists don’t need to sell, but if it’s a livelihood, a creator must promote his or her ‘product’. But beware! The sleazy hard-sell doesn’t work very well anywhere nowadays, but it’s even less effective in the art world. People hate to feel they are being pushed into something. The more advantages and benefits you can highlight, the better.

2, The meek don’t inherit

Another situation that can lead to problems in the initial creation of an artist statement is a lack of bravado. There are many shy individuals in the creative world, but this must be suppressed in the discussion of an artist’s work. If you don’t seem confident in your work, it will be much harder for a potential buyer to get excited about it.

3, You do NEED an artist statement

A third type of artist simply doesn’t see the need for the statement; they feel that their work speaks for itself. This can only be the case if you are solely a decorative creator, without a vision or cohesion to these pieces. Otherwise, it always helps to better inform your viewer of your intent. More engagement can only lead to a personal connection, which always produces better sales (and more esteem).

4, Answer questions

When you see others interacting with your work, they have a significant advantage, as you are there to answer questions in a free environment. But most of the time, viewers do not get this opportunity. The artist statement serves as a de facto answer to common questions about your body of work, as a whole or in a series, and it allows for more in depth conversation about your concepts. It can be useful to brainstorm the types of questions you might be asked about your work as a way to start writing your statement.

5, Don’t baffle your audience with jargon

A common misconception about the artist statement is that it must be written in International Art English, that jumbled mess of lofty jargon used in press releases and criticism books (I have written more about thishere). This is not the case, and an overly ostentatious statement can lead the viewer to be more confused at your work than before. Leave that language to critics, bloggers, and academics. You don’t want to limit your audience.

6, Don’t bore your audience with drawn out copy

An artist statement doesn’t need to be very long. If you lose the reader’s concentration, the writing is of little use. Optimally, the piece should be no more than 20 total sentences, broken up into 3 or four paragraphs. The first paragraph can be about why you make your art, and then delve into why you create in the medium. Once again, be clear and concise. This is an essential introduction to your work.

7, Be yourself

Be sure to write from your point of view. There is a reason it is called an artist statement. It is from you to new viewers. There’s no need to give them your whole life story; think of this as a movie trailer to your entire body of work. Draw viewers in.

8, Consider getting help

If you aren’t the most confident writer, don’t worry. You can hone this over time, or if you wish to outsource, there are many resources online (Like Elance) in order to reach out to hungry art writers. Art writers are out there, always looking for this type of work. They should be able to handle your project with ease, in a timely manner. This could save an uninitiated writer some time and worry, and could also serve as a foundation for a future statement. As your goals and concepts develop, simply adjust those aspects of the piece.

9, Don’t show off

It is also best to avoid using any self-congratulatory language in your piece. This is like a movie trailer, not a movie poster. If Roger Ebert gave you two thumbs up, it is of no importance. You are laying the groundwork for interest, and testimonials can turn viewers off. Also, artists want their work to speak for itself, so why would you want to give up your space so someone else can talk about your art?

10, Join the dots and tailor-make your statement

The most important aspect in describing your work is to show the connection between the concept (what you’re saying) to the physical structure. In the textile world, as with many others, this can be the most difficult aspect of the statement. Try to pick out a few examples to engage the viewer. If the fabric or weave evokes certain cultural topics, state them. Even for the most experienced viewer, these nuances can easily be lost without explanation. It isn’t a fault of the artist; those details are what created your individuality. To lose those is to lose it all.
Galleries may ask for specifically tailored statements to engage for their shows. Depending on the show, especially in group shows, this may be written by the gallery itself. Their job is to show correlation between all of the involved artists, and might focus on only one aspect of your work.
If you are asked to craft and artist statement yourself for a solo show, you need to show the relation between your works to each other, the show, and the space itself. Describe how these pieces fit together, with no more than one sentence relating to work outside the show. Optimally, only the work in the show should be referenced; write about outside work only if it differs from that in the show significantly.
The title of the show is so essential, yet rarely truly accurate. Critics and viewers respond to a title, so if you can relate your works to the show in an understandable way, the show will be heads above others. In that vein, it helps to expound a bit on the reason you chose that space for your show. Viewers can decipher if you simply picked the gallery because they had space, so make sure they know it was a merger that made sense for both parties.

A well-written artist statement can help cultivate an informed audience and one that is intrigued by your work. It’s a good idea to constantly revisit yours to ensure it appropriately represents you as you now!

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