Whether you're a writer, artist, designer, or curator, writing well in the arts is key in setting you and your practice ahead!
It ensures you can clearly express your ideas and present your best self to publications, media, galleries, and funding bodies. Writing right for the arts is a series of tips and tricks for arts writing.
Your artwork shouldn't be the only thing making a statement!
At some point in your career as an artist you will be asked to provide a written description of your practice in the form of an artist statement.
Artist statements can be used in a number of forums – they can accompany exhibition texts or catalogues, become resources for media, or be used in grant and award applications. In each of these contexts, your statement should be written to help readers develop a general understanding of your practice, in relation to its mediums, concerns and subjects.
1. THINK ABOUT IT!
It's time to take an ice pick to the psyche and pick apart that mountain of ideas.
Ask yourself questions about your practice that you want to answer in a statement. Think about what kind of statement you want to make.
Think - What shapes your practice? What words come to mind? What are you trying to express?
2. THE BIGGER PICTURE.
Use your artist statement to tell people why it is you're painting memes or making glitch art in 2018.
What are you responding to? Where does your practice sit in the wider world. Perhaps, who or what came before you, sits next to you, in the long lineage of thought and practice.
3. THE SMALLER PICTURE.
Maybe you just want to answer the basic questions – what, how, and why. Explain what your work is in terms of medium, scale, process, context, audience. What does your process involve?
4. COMPLEX WORK ≠ COMPLEX STATEMENT.
Your work may be complex, varied, and infinitely shifting meanings. That's great! But... that doesn't mean your artist statement has to be too.
Providing insight into your work doesn't take away from an audience's ability to experience your work openly. If you can pack all your complex practice into a couple of punchy sentences, you’re writing like a winner!
5. SUITED LANGUAGE.
The statement is a reflection of your work. Use terms and styles that match your work.
There is certainly a time and a place for academic writing but your artist statement is for broader audience. This audience may be deterred by overly convoluted terminology.
Remember to tread carefully when writing in a way that some people might find inaccessible.
6. SMALL BUT STRONG!
A statement may be small but it has to be strong!
Don't just string sentences together one after the other stream-of-consciousness style. This may be helpful to get started, but a strong statement will be well structured.
Take time to structure it in a way that is logical, easy to read, and flows well from one sentence or paragraph to the next.
A common approach is to begin with an overview statement then move into slightly more detail about specific ideas your practice over time. Follow this with a concluding statement perhaps summing up these points.
7. LOOK (AGAIN, AND AGAIN)
Let's be real. The best artist statements are the result of a bit of workshopping, even thought the end result may look as tiny as a couple of sentences.
Make sure you proofread and edit your work! Get a second or third opinion. Listen to the criticism you receive. You don’t have to take it all on board but it’s a good idea to understand how your artist statement would be received.