An artist statement is a short piece of writing about your work, practice and wider intellectual concerns. They are as varied and diverse as the practices they describe, so the following suggestions are intended as guidelines and observations rather than hard and fast rules.
It should act as an introduction to your practice as a whole, highlighting the common threads of ideas, motivations and process running through your work. A longer statement may go into more detail about specific works.
A statement should give the reader a better understanding of where your practice and interests come from, influences on you or your work, and support them in interpreting what you do. You will need an artist statement for most applications for opportunities, to add to press releases, websites and when approaching galleries and curators. Writing an artist statement is will also help you focus and order your thoughts about your practice.
The length depends on what it's being used for. It is a good idea to have a basic artists statement that you can adapt, grow or shrink as you need it for different things, to provide a quick starting point for applications. This could be straight forward paragraph of about 100 - 200 words in length which can then be adapted and added to depending on what its being submitted for.
As well providing the appropriate information in an artists statement, how this is delivered is important.
The following qualities make for a good artist statement
- Be clear: use as plain English as far as possible unless you are dealing with specific concepts, and explain them briefly. Don't use complex or specialist language unnecessarily.
- Accuracy: don't dress your work up to be something that it's not. An accurate statement about good work that deals with a relatively simple idea is much better than trying to make something appear clever by dressing it in hyperbole.
- Say what you see: it can be helpful to refer to any physical qualities of your work in reference to the conceptual ones. Explain the decisions that you made about how the work took shape and why you made them.
- Stick to your subject, which is your practice. The purpose of the artist statement is to talk in a focused way about your practice, not wider philosophical questions or concepts.
- Objectivity: use of superlatives and grand claims when describing your work will do you no favours. Try to be objective or at least use objective language when describing your own work.
Some things to think about that might help you write your own artist statement.
So what kind of information would you include in an artists statement? Here are some questions you might like to consider:
- What media do you work with? What interests you about work of this type?
- Why do you work in this media? Is there a relationship between the media and the ideas that you work with?
- What processes are involved in the work and how are they relevant to the ideas you are dealing with?
- What themes, ideas and concerns does your work uniquely consider?
- Are there any outside influences and ideas, perhaps from outside the arts, which have bearing on your work?
- What ties your individual pieces of work together into a practice?
- Are there any particular theories, artists or schools of thought relevant to your work?
- Is there an ‘intention' behind the work; what do you want the work to achieve?
Things you should not include in an artist statement include:
- Information about your career as an artist
- Exhibition history
- Work history
If required, these topics should instead be included in a biographical statement separate from your artist statement.
When writing, include quotes from critics or reviews, and reference any press coverage.
Writing them in the third person (Jane's work is...) rather than the first person (My work is...) makes it easier to drop them into press releases, and can be used verbatim if necessary by journalists.