Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Writing artist statements can be downright annoying sometimes. The problems are usually confined to the beginning of the process, especially after there has been a fairly significant change in my work, as there has been over the past year or so. It's difficult enough trying to figure out just what I'm doing with the work itself, adding trying to figure out how to translate and convey whatever meanings/feelings I have about it to the outside world can be headache-inducing.
I've just gone through this process again for my upcoming show and I think I've gotten it as concise as possible without sounding too bloated nor too vague. I try to keep my language in a place where there's obvioiusly some thought behind it, but at the same time, I don't want to alienate potential readers with art-speak and possibly put them to sleep in the process. Nor do I want to sound pretentious and put viewers off from the work entirely, which can be easy to do with contemporary abstraction.
The best writing from artists, in terms of statements, articulates their ideas and processes in an educated, concise manner without being intellectually condescending, deliberately obtuse, or plain lazy. As with other writing, the audience has to be considered. In the case of artist statements, the potential audience is going to be people from usually a wide range of experiences; from art students and peers to 'the man on the street' who may come into contact with one's work and wants to learn more about it and the artist.
I try to hold myself to a high standard when writing my statements. I fail a lot and have certainly missed the mark at times; at other times, I've nailed it. Just like the work itself, writing about it is an on-going process. It's also one that will define what you leave behind. Some people are perfectly happy to leave it to others to define what you made, which is going to happen, anyway. However, I believe it's important for the artist to have a voice in whatever future history there is about the work, in addition to those of critics, curators, gallery owners, museum boards, etc...At the very least, the artist's ideas at the time can be known.
The present is important to consider also. When I jot down notes which might lead to a formal statement, I'm also clarifying for myself what might be going on with my work. On top of that, it aids in allowing me to be clear when I'm talking to others about my work. There's a repository to look back on and gain insight from so that any future writings might be seen as part of a continuing thought process...