How to avoid art jargon and write a great artist statement

Every now and then I read a badly written artist statement or gallery press release. Why bad? Because they are vague and they contain art speak (art speak is highly pretentious art jargon). As a result these statements don’t say anything meaningful about the artist or his work. While doing some research online (I wanted to find a really good art speak example) I found this great little gem in an article by writer and curator Daniel Blight, written for the Guardian.

How’s this: "Combining radical notions of performativity and the body as liminal space, my practice interrogates the theoretical limitations of altermodernism. My work, which traverses disparate realms of object-making such as painting and performance, investigates the space between metabolism and metaphysics and the aporia inherent to such a discourse.”  When you figure out what that means please give me a call. In fact, what I am missing in this statement are ‘juxtaposed’ and ‘important’, two other much abused words in the art speak vocabulary.

Here is another example of where an artist statement can go wrong. Every artist has been influenced by other artists and art movements. That is normal, hardly any artist operates in a vacuum. But you have to be able to explain the connection, otherwise the mention of the other artist, say, Gerhard Richter, becomes inconsequential. When you are asking someone to fork over $10,000 for a painting they deserve an explanation as to why they should part with their cash. What would you say if you were in the process of buying a car and the dealer said: “Look. It’s a Toyota but the carmaker was inspired by the smooth lines of Porsche when he designed it. It’s an important car. Trust me”. If your work is inspired by Richter, be prepared to explain why.

So how to do it right? Know your art, understand why it is unique and be specific when you write about it. Don’t write around your art, write about it. Don’t try to pull your uniqueness from external sources because you won’t find it there. Your unique, artistic vision and the material expression of your vision are right inside you and in your art. You just need to find it. Don’t be discouraged if that does not happen overnight. Large corporations hire entire teams to figure out and fine-tune their brands. However, when you have discovered what your artist brand is, you’ll find it easy to write about and there will be no more need for art speak.

If you need help with discovering your artist brand or if you need us to write a curatorial essay for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

© Annelien Bruins 2016. All Rights Reserved