Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The reason why

The world of the internet has made viewing art possible by a simple finger click. Artists can prowl the web to their hearts' delight, visit different countries, and view art that they might never otherwise see. There are positives and negatives connected to this unlimited display of artwork. As with reading an art book, you can never get all the nuances of a work, the size/scale, the manner of application, material choices, textural subtleties, layers, etc., when looking online. You can, however, get a good sense of overall style and content.

One thing I like about web exploration is the presence of artist bios, artist statements and an archive of work. It is easier to "place" an artist on the web than when you see one exhibition. My online education certainly helped me when I was struggling with the larger themes in art and trying to place mine within a larger context. Reading so many artist statements also helped me write my own.

One of my favourite web activities is finding an artist, and reading the bio and artist statement before I look at the gallery/portfolio. Why would I do this? I like to envision how the art would look based on the statement and other aspects of the artist's history. Am I a good predictor based on this information? Not always! I find it very interesting that words often do not help us predict art style and content, but they do inform our viewing once the work is in front of us.

I thought I would set up a similar exercise for my readers. Here is an artist statement from an artist whose work I discovered on my last trip to Ottawa. Read it and try to imagine or describe what the work might be like. I will reveal the work in the next post.

Artist statement :
"Through themes of childhood, sexuality and recollection (the artist's) work reveals narratives that are divined from her dreamlike world. This invented place is a fount from which (the artist) has drawn from since her childhood and which she is continually mapping and exploring. The work is a compendium of lost feelings, half dreams and landscapes that seeks to evoke a sense of intimacy, familiarity and wistfulness. Inspired in part by fairy tales by the forests and lakes near her home in Ottawa, these mixed media collages unveil a strange enchantment, one shared between nature and imagination."

In my search for artist statements for this activity, I initially went to artists whose work I am very familiar with and in many cases their statement did not help to elaborate the nature of their work . I think there is a lesson in that. If someone read your artist statement would it provide an inroad to what you do as an artist?


Kathy said...

Margaret: You pose an interesting challenge and make an important point. Yes, I have an image of what this artist's mixed-media collages look like and anticipate your next post to see if I'm even close. You also hit on a topic that I've been working on the past few weeks - refining my artist's statement. It needs to be done and I've put it off. So, thanks for the kick in the pants!

Kesha Bruce: said...

I think that if the statement doesn't help to elaborate the nature of the work....then what exactly is a statement but a busy-work/intellectual exercise? And who has time for that?! :)

Not having seen the work, I think the statement you chose is pretty good in terms of being clear and conjuring up some mental images.

I can't wait to see the work!

Great post.

Margaret Ryall said...

It seems I don't mind writing about other things but when the term artist statement comes up I clam up. I continue to refine mine and I hope it is a good match to my work. I can appreciated your putting it of. I hope I get to see the revisions!

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. If you can't read an artist statement and get some way into the work from it, why bother to compose it at all? Clarity is an important characteristic in an artist statement and many artists never achieve it. I often wonder who the statements were written for. Thanks for dropping by.

Kelly Marszycki said...

Margaret -- Excellent post! I think I've re-written my statement dozens of time, hoping to land on just the right words. Often, though, words just seem to be the "busy" work to which Kesha refers. Perhaps one's statement is something to be "built" over time, not just in one jotting?

Margaret Ryall said...

I agree that an artist statement is built over time. Mine keeps reforming itself as I develop new ideas and new skills. I think a large part of it has to do with knowing yourself as an artist and finding just the right words to express that information.

beauty comma said...

this is quite exciting! i don't dare trying to describe what i visualize based on the statement though. there are two reasons for this. 1) sender. it's just very difficult to describe one's own feelings. 2) receiver. we all interpret what we hear and read differently because we all have different 'luggage'
it will be interesting to see the actual art!

Margaret Ryall said...

Beauty Comma,
You make two good points. Our perceptions are always coloured/grounded in our experiences. Isn't that what makes the world an interesting place?

Kathy said...

It's great reading all these comments about writing an artist's statement. Thanks for posting this topic, Margaret. I can add that an artist's statement must change over time as the artist's work changes. For me, that means writing a new statement every few years. And ... it IS drudgery! Most painters would rather just paint and let the work speak for itself, and I'm no exception. But, exhibitors expect us to provide a statement.