Illustration: Paul Klee. 'Schlamm Assel Fisch', 1940.
Recently, I have come across a number of individuals within the creative community asking how necessary the artist statement is, with a number decrying the whole effort of producing an artist statement as a pretentious episode, stating that it should be unnecessary, as the work itself should suffice. That to me is a mistake. Reading an artist statement to me personally, is the second thing I do after checking their artwork at a website. The two to me are intimately and irrevocably linked. To understand the personal headspace of an artist is to understand their work. If you do not have an inkling as to their personal perspective, you lose so much.
The artist statement is ultimately a personal statement, which is something we should be aware of. Critics of the artist statement maintain that it is a lesson in pretentious self-promotion, but to many it is a simple explanation. It can literally be as simple as placing a piece of artwork on a wall and someone asking, "What's that all about then?" and you explaining.
Illustration: Liubov Popova. 'Spatial Force Construction', 1920.
I do understand that underlying the confusion and criticism of the artist statement, are differences in perspective, differences even in methods of work. Practical designers for example, may not see the point of producing an artist statement, but I still believe that all creative individuals should produce one irrespective of whether they are a designer or an artist. It is really a message of intent for the world at large.
Whatever the personal opinion regarding statements, I do think that artists should be taken seriously, and genuinely. The artist statement is not something to be sneered at, treated with derision, or contempt by others. It does not have to be long, complex, and deeply meaningful, but if it is, then that should be seen as the prerogative of the individual artist, and not the judgement of others. Personally, I think everyone on the planet should create some form of personal statement as to who they are, what their personal perspective is, where they are wanting to go on their life journey, but then perhaps that is what social media is for.
Illustration: August Babberger. 'Bildausschnitt', 1928.
As to the artist statement specifically, it is a statement of intent, a statement of sensibility. It is, in word form, their understanding of the world around them. It is their perspective on life; it gives others an insight into that perspective, and a subsequent understanding of the ultimate projection of that understanding, their artwork.
An artist statement should always be approached with honesty and without fear of ridicule. Ridicule is the clumsy tool of the misinformed, the frightened, and the bewildered. Ridicule can hurt, but studiously ignored it is surprising how ineffectual it becomes.
Above all, an artist statement is a message of being, that is transposed to the outside world. This is me, you are saying, and this is my creative journey. Share this with the world and you share the core of who you are as an individual and as an artist.
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