I’ve been sweating out a new version of my artist’s statement, which, of course, needs to be simply expressed and concise. It’s not easy is it? If you’re trying to avoid using technical or specialised terms, then using plain language raises a whole lot of muddle.
Do you label your work? Is what other people think of your label important to you? Is it important to them? If you’re working in a public context, whether with a community group, or in a public location, how you’re perceived makes quite a difference. ‘He’s an artist you know, but actually he’s alright!’ or ‘He seems quite nice, but, I’m not sure what he does’.
‘Complex’ – not to be confused with ‘complicated’ – is how we’re made, and how we think, so do we need to reduce the rich truth to simplistic labels? People are quite familiar with making conceptual connections, and especially since we pursue complexity in our work why should we shy away from expressing that ‘mix’?
But that’s where the difficulty arises – ‘what does that MEAN?’ Is a label a definition? It depends whether you define things by their centre or their edge? The edge is interesting, because it intermingles with other things and you get complexity and colour, but the centre is what gives you direction – what you’ll keep coming back to. If I make a general statement about myself and my work, it calls for a balance but I’m not the final arbiter of its perception. Have they seen part of one of my ‘edges’ or do they perceive the constant ‘centre’?
I know exactly what I’m trying to do and where my centre is found, but I can easily be seen as either hopelessly vague, or narrowly formulaic, depending which label I use. The work, of course, speaks for itself, but that doesn’t help you in the short term.
Its a balance – of pain and pleasure perhaps? It’s not black and white, though, is it?