When you are pursuing an art career, artist statement might easily be as important as your work itself. This is the first clue your audience will have about your art, the first sentences they will read in your portfolio, this statement represents your first handshake with a potential buyer or a gallery. To avoid falling into the sea of many artists who describe themselves in words no-one understands, here are some tips on how to write, or how to change the existing, art statement.
Introduce yourself to the audience as if you were there in person. Write the statement in the same way you would actually talk to someone - bearing in mind that your conversation partner is neither completely uninformed, neither an academic you need to impress. Write your artist statement to reach a wide audience with your art and its meaning.
Be personal. Explain why is creating this type of art important to you - what drives you, what inspires you, what moves you. Think about who is your influence or what is the cause your art serves to, what motivated you to create art in the first place.
Briefly explain the artistic process, the materials you used, and why were those your choice. If there are any special or innovative techniques you are using, you should also highlight how did you get that idea.
To write about yourself is a challenge, as you should expose a part of your intimate, personal life. However, by being confidential, you are inviting the audience in, and thus creating an open space for dialogue. People will feel like they know you and can connect to you better. With this, you are letting them experience your art as a part of you, which gets you long term engagement. Writing about yourself in a short frame is for sure difficult, so try to make it fit into two, three sentences tops - as if you were writing a post on Twitter.
You will not keep anybody's attention with a long, complicated artist statement. People nowadays take information in small cups, and so you should give them everything you want them to know about you in a short, concise text. Don't use long, complex words, which make your sentences difficult to understand - if a reader needs a few goes before he/she can understand you, they won't bother to read it. Be clear for a very broad audience.
When writing your statement, you will have many versions in the process. Explain what you are doing to yourself, and then cut your text to remove all the unnecessary moments. For example, instead of saying "I intend to..." or "I am trying to...", just say the essence of what it is about. It will make your statement shorter, and much clearer and focused.
One artist statement is often not sufficient to explain your work as a whole. For one, you are always changing and transforming, innovating and addressing different challenges. Make an artist statement for every project, exhibition, performance, sculpture. Let each statement explain what was the purpose of the art piece, and focus on your position as an artist in the moment of creation. Someday, a historian could analyze your work by tracking your statements connected to the projects you did over the years.
There is no need to point out what is the highlight of your work. The viewer will have the chance to experience your art in his/her own way, not the way you want them to. That is the whole beauty of experiencing art - your statement should intrigue them, and then give them the freedom to have their own interpretations.
The artist statement is not your biography, so don't get carried away to write about yourself too much. The focus should be your work, and your vision.
When you are done with your statement, send it to your friends! Let other people read it, and give you their comments and feedback. They will tell you if the language was clear, and if it describes your art well. Have other fellow artists review your writing, and tell you their impressions. Pay attention not to make any careless mistakes - your spelling and grammar have to be perfect, the context clear and precise, understandable for everyone. Sometimes it's also good to write your statement, and then leave it be for a few days. Later on, you might have a different insight into how your sentences are structured. Rome isn't built in a day.
Do you have any struggles writing your artist statement? What is the biggest challenge for you? Tell us in the comment section below.
About the author:
Nina Petrov is an activist, poet, performer and mathematician. She communicates with the world mostly through words, movement and equations, but sometimes also by speaking very loudly. The only truth she could say about herself is that she keeps changing every day, never stops learning and interacting with her surroundings.