Writing the artist statement

The writing of artist statements by students is an authentic reflective practice and highlights the relationships between artist and audience. Evaluation and reflection of one's own work is a strategy that research shows have a positive impact on learning and literacy (Benander & Rafei, 2016; Pedro, Abodeeb-Gentile, & Courtney, 2012). Artist statements may be included in visual diaries, classroom displays and larger exhibitions.
The artist's statement is a specific text type that includes the following features:

  • Introduction to the artist and the work
  • Materials used in the work
  • Explanation of the purpose of the work
  • The ideas and themes the work explores
  • Symbolism in the work
  • Influences (other artists, movements, etc.).

While artists' statements often order these features as per the list above, individuals may take a more creative approach to the structure of their statements.

The following strategy provides steps to scaffold students writing of artist statements.

  1. The teacher and students deconstruct sample texts such as the artist statement below. The teacher asks students to identify the features of artist statements in the sample texts.
  2. Linguistic features including sentence structure, tense and language choices are identified and discussed.
  3. Features to highlight include:

    • simple present tense (indicated in bold)
    • evaluative language choices to express feeling, judgement, and appreciation (highlighted yellow)
    • expanded noun or nominal groups (underlined).

    My studio practice plays with the ritual and intimacy of drinking tea and the tendency of human nature to give preference to objects and consumerism. By employing dysfunctionality, form manipulation and crude distortion, I challenge the ideals of preciousness sold by consumerism and conformity. I incorporate thought provoking, humorous elements with an absurdist quality. Using porcelain clays was a deliberate choice because of the rich history of porcelain and its connection to materialism. My influences include the technically exceptional work of contemporary ceramicists Brett Freund, Alison Frith and Hilda Carr, ancient Chinese pottery, wabi-sabi aesthetics and my grandad, a former potter. Specious is a synthesis of my ideas.
    (Retrieved from https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Top-Arts-2019_Large-Print-Labels.pdf)

  4. The teacher asks students to brainstorm keywords associated with their artwork/s and write these on post-it notes. These keywords may describe materials, influences, meanings associated with the work.
  5. Each student organises their post-it notes according to the list of artist statement features (above).
  6. Students use their post-it notes as starting points for sentences in their statement. They may begin by 'freewriting' using their keywords.
  7. After freewriting or oral rehearsal of ideas, students edit and refine their artist statements, paying attention to the use of Visual Arts vocabulary.
  8. Statements are displayed against artworks and Post-it notes feedback from peers is posted to challenge students to consider the ideas of their peers.
  9. Statements are refined with consideration of feedback.
  10. The teacher facilitates an evaluation of the writing process.
  11. Curriculum links for the above example: VCAVAP037, VCAVAR038, VCAVAP044, VCAVAR045.