Monthly Archives: April 2009

on how [not] to write an artist's statement

Saturday 18 April 2009

with every new exhibition proposal, application or opportunity, comes the need to write the supporting artist’s statement…

wanting to regenerate my thoughts on this art writing process, i googled how to write an artist statement and found this article and this one (a follow up), both on myartspace.com – yet another website for networking artists.

if you can forgive them for the long-winded preamble (some succinct bullet points would be better) then the advice given is good. write in a style or language that is you, and remember that the statement acts as an opening into your artwork. it goes without saying that artist’s statements should be reviewed and rewritten, adapted and refined.

below is (admittedly) a rather verbose statement which i wrote as an introduction to my website in 2005-2006, which i adapted for various exhibitions, applications and artist websites such as saatchi, axis, etc..

Jazz Green : fine artist

Introduction : at the core of my practice as a visual artist is an ongoing fascination with the structures and patterns of decay and erosion in the open landscape, the intricacies of colour in weathered surfaces and the often delicate, organic processes of gradual deterioration. I often utilise salvaged and reclaimed materials in my work, and the forensic capacity of macro photography provides me with a range of initial visual references, appropriated compositions which I view as ‘found paintings’. This has instigated a sustained engagement with the techniques and processes of painting – the fundamental qualities of base materials to imbue an emotion or memory of a landscape in transition, remembered visual experiences or stimuli which I refer to as ‘edgescapes’.

Many of the mixed media artworks displayed here are characterised by earth colours and multi-layered, textural qualities: deliberately intricate reinventions and subtle explorations of surface and patina. They evolve into more abstracted, multi-sensory artworks when detached from their original visual source, drawing upon a more metaphorical pictorial language: as quiet, gentle, symbolic renderings on broader perceptions of abandonment, loss, transience or impermanence.

back on on myartspace, i was surprised (and shocked) to come across this artist statement:

plagiarism - artist statement

JenMarie substitutes innermost part for at the core, environment in my line – an ongoing fascination with [the structures and patterns of] decay and erosion in the open landscape, makes other minor tweaks, but decides to keep with intricacies of colo[u]r … the delicate, [organic] processes of gradual deterioration … which has instigated a sustained engagement with the [techniques] and process[es] of painting… and, ta-dah, her artist statement is complete!

if more evidence were needed of blatant copying or plagiarism, this statement is on another website:

evidence of artistic plagiarism

here, the art student SarahB uses similar, cut-and-copy, find-and-replace techniques, plundering a thesaurus to tweak some phrases, none of which is her own writing style.

unsurprisingly, SarahB has also instigated a sustained engagement with [insert relevant subject]… and she also utilises intricacies of colour and subtle explorations of surface and patina…when [which] detach[ed] … from [its] … original visual source [context] … drawing upon [allowing access to] a more metaphorical pictorial language … of abandonment, loss, transience or impermanence…

SarahB  has remixed and interwoven much of my text, a level of appropriation much in keeping with her sustained enquiry into leed’s industrial and textile heritage!

it is perhaps no surprise to find that both of these artists are art students(!), one American, one British.

there must be many students, amateur artists and others using google to support their art critical studies, when seemingly stuck for (how to account for their) ideas, at a loss for (their own) words??…

whoever said that bad artists copy, good artists steal? what Picasso referred to is artistic inspiration, as no artist can work in a void, we are inspired by what has gone before, from things around us, what we feel connected to, from our own experience, the catalyst to making something new – and the key to making it your own is in the creative mix: you and your history, what has gone before, what is happening now, what can happen next, then doing it differently.

there is a phrase (or is it a proverb?) that is a kind of mantra to anyone concerned with experiential teaching and learning, it goes something like this: tell me and i forget, show me and i might remember, let me try and i will learn.. so, straight copying, be it text, images, music or other things, fails to allow that experiential journey, of taking the creative leap, making a few mistakes along the way, reworking and resolving, then taking some genuine pride in the efforts to arrive at a successful outcome..

artist statement by jazz green for salthouse exhibition 09

my all new statement for salthouse 2009 (obscured)..

writing this brief text was no easy task; write a short text of about 80 words, explaining in clear and simple language what your piece is about and what you have aimed to do.. i probably wrote and rewrote about five or six drafts, editing along the way to keep within the word count, re-reading some of my old statements and extracting relevant bits, swapping sentences around, deliberating between using using echoes or mirrors, texture or textural, and avoiding the word abstract..

so, if i am to give any advice to an artist who has to write a new proposal or artist statement it is:

1. never ever copy – it is incredibly inept (and lazy) to think one can use and pass off another’s personally crafted thoughts and ideas as your own words with only minimal or no changes!

2. use mindmaps, word clouds, spider diagrams, thought showers (or whatever) to put down in writing what you are interested in, inspired by, or are hoping to achieve or convey in your art..

3. use a thesaurus to expand your vocabulary..

4. write in the first person if possible, using language not dissimilar to what you would be comfortable using in a real life conversation, eg. if you were asked at a private view to describe your art to an interested lay-person..

it is with some irony, that as i began to write this blog, a programme came up on Radio 4 mentioning the Lyre bird – which mimics all manner of forest sounds from other birds to chainsaws.. a little bit funny, and a little bit clever – well, for a bird. view a BBC clip of it on youtube..

but, back to plagiarism; it’s not very funny and it’s definitely not very clever..