Artist’s Statements: Are they all bullshit?

Why I don’t like reading the artist statement.

Artist statement – defined as a general introduction to the body of work or a specific subject. It is there to help you connect with the artist and their work, in a more detailed way. But are they really needed, are they even relevant and why are they so pompous?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think art should be open to interpretation. I want to be able to view a piece and make my own mind up on what I see and what I take from it. Is that not part of the fun, to see a piece of artwork and use your own imagination to decipher the meaning? It’s also great when you have someone to talk to about it, what I see in the piece may not be what the next person sees, and then you have something to discuss. Also, is that not what a lot of artist’s love as well? Yes, the artist themselves may have had inspiration, may want to portray a particular meaning, but surely they also get excited when other people see something new, something different in their work? Do they not find that exciting?

The point of all this is that the written statement spoils the fun of interpretation. If you already know exactly what the art work is supposed to mean, then surely that’s all you’ll see. It takes away the fun of debate, you’ll never ask:

‘What does this mean? I wonder what they were trying to say? What does that represent?’

You’ll know the answers already.

This isn’t just for art either, the same goes for photography. I found this article online by photographer David Saxe, who feels the same way I do. He says:

“If the photographer has a story to tell, this should be clearly obvious to the viewer, shouldn’t it? So if you need an artist statement to explain what you’re doing, haven’t you already failed?”

Music is the same! It’s so cringey when you listen to a musician talk about why they wrote that song/album. What emotional state they were in when they created it. What they had to go through to get to the these lyrics. It’s all so tiring. I want to be able to listen a song and take from it what I want. And like art and photography, should the song itself not be enough to spur emotion in you? Luckily, musician’s don’t have to write or speak about their work as often as artists do.

This next point may upset a few people, but what is a blog if I can’t be honest in what I write? I sometimes think artists statements are a bit… pretentious. When I studied art at University, I was marked down because I couldn’t ‘talk the talk.’ I couldn’t talk up my work in the way I felt my tutors wanted me to, and I know that’s why I didn’t get the highest grade. At University you couldn’t just create beautiful artwork, everything had to have meaning behind it, which you had to explain in great depth. Ugh! You study Fine Art or even Photography at University because you have an artistic talent, but really, all the marks are in what you say/write about the work you created.

I feel art still has that stuck-up, pompous feel about it. It alienates people. I think one of the reasons behind this is the words some artist use! I have an art degree and even I roll my eyes at some of the things artist come out with. I feel like this use of language can really put people off. There’s a website named ‘Arty Bollocks Generator: Instant artist statement.‘ that sums it up really! It’s a pretty funny blog which hits the nail on the head, with artist’s statement templates that ooze bullshit.

I’d be lying if I said I never read the artist statement, of course I do, but I always read it after I have seen the work and I sometimes wish I hadn’t read it at all. It would be so nice if there were more statements that were in plain old English, easy-to-read and easy to understand. Just cut out all the artist jargon.

I know this piece may upset a few people and I can only apologise for that, but as someone who really does class art as a huge part of my life, I felt it was something I had to say. Surely I’m not the only one that feels this way. Am I?

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