By Wendy Law
Your artist statement is an introduction to you and your work. This concise piece of text communicates with curators, gallery directors, reviewers, grant funding panels and the public – so it needs to reflect accurately who you are and what you do.
We can help you understand what an artist statement is, why you need it, who it’s for and how to write it.
Why have an artist statement?
As a practising artist, people are often introduced to your work through written communication. This can include text that accompanies your images on a website, in a gallery – or even in the context of applications for funding, project or exhibiting opportunities.
Writing your statement is an opportunity for you to promote yourself and your practice, and attract interest in your work. But you need to refine it to a well-crafted paragraph or two. So think about your motivations, aspirations and creative ideas. If you’re struggling to define exactly what these are try filling in our Defining Your Work Worksheet.
Your artist statement may be used by:
- Exhibition curators or gallery directors to write a foreword for a catalogue, promotional brochures or press releases.
- Funding bodies to use along with the public listing when you have been awarded funding.
When it comes to making decisions about applications, the copy is often read before any images are viewed. So it’s important you can sum up the essence of your artistic practice and clearly convey your specific proposal.
If writing isn’t your strength, ask a colleague or friend who is a capable writer to help you.
Who is the artist statement for?
The artist statement is for a range of people who may discover your work in several different ways:
- A website
- Your degree show
- A panel awarding grants: Creative Scotland, local authority, charitable trust or foundation
- Open competitions proposals
- Exhibition or project proposal to a public or private gallery
- An artist’s residency or project proposal
- The press
When you sell your work, you can provide your artist statement along with your biography to help a buyer to talk more knowledgably about your work to others.
What the artist statement is not
Your artist statement supports your work but is not a substitute for looking at the work itself. It is not
- Text with the tone and language of an advertisement
- An essay or review
- Your CV – although it may accompany your CV
- Fixed – in fact it should change as your artistic practice and work develops.
- An interpretation of your work
How to write an artist statement
Your artist statement should be informative and clear for all readers, whether they are familiar with your work or not.
Provide the reader with an understanding of what underpins your work and identify what makes it distinct in approach, ideas, processes, materials, subject matter and the way you present it. Entice them to find out more.
When you write it remember to:
- Write in the first person – use ‘I’
- Be informative but interesting
- Keep it short – summarise in a few lines or a half a page maximum
- Avoid over-using jargon and ‘art-speak’
You may find it helpful to begin by writing a long version of your statement that includes everything, then refining it down to key points. Ensure it makes sense by asking another artist to read it over – especially someone who is not familiar with your work.
Looking for sound advice and/or a sounding board?
Contact us to organise a meeting with one of our experienced and friendly creative industry advisors.