In your career there will be a time when you have to present your work, send an application for residency, a grant or an academic submission. If there is one thing every artist agrees on, it is the negative sentiment associated with writing an artist statement. Moreover this dreadful experience is amplified by rumors of gallerists not even reading these painfully written introductions to your work.
The truth is there are plenty of people who will read them, such as curators and residency committee jurors. So you better get this right and the key is to start before you actually need one in order to avoid the stress that comes hand in hand with accomplishing this task last minute.
Get it done now
The reason to write it now instead of waiting until you actually have to submit one is that it will take you a long time to come up with a text you like, so allow yourself to have enough time to think it through, take a break and finish without a tight deadline. This way you can revise your work, your closest friends can have a look too and perhaps you can even show it to an art professional who might give you their input. Even after that you will want to change, rephrase and in many cases restart the whole writing. The tough truth is that at some point of your life as an artists you will have to submit one, so why not do it right?
Sisyphean struggle by Kaamran Hafeez and Joan Hafeez
Keep it simple
To do so it is essential to keep in mind the purpose of an artist statement. WHAT and WHY are the two most important questions to answer. Easier said than done! Explaining your work shouldn’t go into Freudian psychoanalysis and lengthy descriptions of your position in art history. What you want to do is to describe as simple as possible, what it is you do in your artistic practice and explain why you are interested in such endeavor. Also keep in mind that your reader is not necessarily someone with a degree in art history or someone involved in the artworld. Therefore keep your language simple and remember that things that are “obvious” for you are not so obvious for everyone.
Use the chance of writing about your work
If the technique you use is special for any reason, make sure to mention it, the goal is to make the reader interested and willing to see your art. Oftentimes artists complain that images don’t do justice to their work. Well, this is your chance to explain whatever you think is important, first person.
Draft and edit
Probably the best way to start is to note the crucial points you want to include. Use these as a starting point to draft a logical and easily understandable skeleton of your text. This will serve as a draft that will be full of holes at this point. Try to fill them by forming full sentences from your outlined keywords. After that edit your text. At this point you will probably have a piece of writing that is extremely difficult to understand. Get rid of jargon and be specific, focus only on your work, don’t try to make it sound like a catalogue raisoné entry written by an art critic.
When you are done purifying your text make sure to proofread it, or ask a friend as you have already seen this piece of writing over and over and you might not be able to spot the errors. It might seem like an impossible task at first, but the key is always to be yourself.
Showcase your uniqueness
If anything the artist statement should truly reflect your personality and your art. The guidelines we offer in this post might be helpful, however we encourage you to use your creative genius and only use this guide to better understand why the artist statement is so important.
Useful literature: Liz Sales, I write Artist Statements
Tomáš Krivočenko is a co-founder of Simor & Krivocenko Art Management, a company dedicated to help the integration of early-career artists. Our utter belief is that artists should focus solely on creation of art, therefore we provide services that take the burden of all other assignments off their shoulders, so they can concentrate on the creation of new pieces.