'Art-speak' PART Two: 5 tips to write your artist statement

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

An artist statement is a difficult task because where do we begin when talking about why we do the things that we do? A lot of the 'what', 'why', and 'how' of our practice is something intuitive to us, and it is intuitive because it comes from our lived experience. And this fact alone is the precise reason statements are so hard. We never know how much we should share in order to best support our work.

IMA's Amit helps artists create less alienating, more inviting and readable artist statements. Below are some tips to help every artist get a handle on their statement, courtesy of Amit.

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

PART 2: Tips to help you write your artist statement

Imagine this: Someone asks you directions to a place very far away, but you happen to know the route perfectly; every road name, every street sign, the landscapes, the buildings, the number of traffic lights, the junctions on the motorway, etc. How do you tell them how to get there?

Is it important they know every single direction right from the point at which you're standing, or do you think landmarks should be enough to guide them? Are they familiar with the area? Are they good with street names? Are they only interested in the general direction to the motorway?

In a sense, we struggle with the exact same dilemmas in our statements:

  • how much information to give

  • what kind of information to give

Well, we're going to look at statements in exactly that way, and with the following tips you'll be in a better position to get your head around your own statements.

(1) We are writing an up-to-date statement, not a biography

Ask yourself: What specific parts of my practice are most important to my current work and practice? Is it important that I mention a background in photography (as an example) if it bears no relevance to my current work?

Why is this important: As artists, we're constantly exploring and experimenting with different mediums and methods. Some stick, others don't. But all the audience has in front of them is the work we're exhibiting and this text. Use the text to get them to engage with the work and get them curious about us. If they like us, they'll find us online where we have the space to talk about the impact that 'photography' had on the way our practice developed.

(2) What is the statement for?

Ask yourself: Am I providing text for a group show? Am I writing for a solo show? Am I submitting as part of a proposal? Is this statement for my website?

Why this is important: Our statement needs to be fit for purpose. If we're showing a single piece as part of a group show, our statement would need to be different to the one we submit for a specific project proposal. What this means is that we should really aim to have a 'core' element to our statement - the infromation that gets used in every statement - and be willing to change the other parts around it as needed.