Exercise 5.7 – Project: Artist’s Statement

Project: Artist’s statement


  1. Statement of intent – what you hope to achieve with the work
  2. Marketing device or describing practitioners’ interests
  3. Specific body of work or may talk about practice more generally
  4. Will probably contain information about any training relevant to their practice, prizes, grants, awards won etc.
  5. An Artist’s statement not the same as an artist’s CV – NB yet CV also contains information on training etc, so pretty much a repetition seems to me.
  6. Huge variety in styles and formats
  7. Often written by another person (or designed to sound as if it is by being written in the third person – definitely not my style).

Exercise 5.7: Prepare your artist’s statement

A link is provided to a statement on the Purdy Hicks website re the work of Ola Kolehmainen, but this comes up as ‘navigation error’.  Instead I looked again at a statement on the same site about the work of Jorma Purenen whose work ‘Imaginary Homecoming’ I have written about here.


Jorma Puranen

Jorma Puranen (born 1951, Helsinki) has become known for his conceptual images of northern landscapes and readdressing historical portraits. In his work he explores the themes of history, culture, identity and memory, creating a dialogue between the past and the present. Puranen often uses archive material as his point of departure, but instead of concentrating on the objects themselves, he studies the reflections, shadows, brushstrokes and cracks on their surfaces; the layers of uncertainty in between the object and the viewer. As he writes, ‘Photography’s capacity to register reflections is actually its singular gift. What other medium deals so expressively with the play of light and shadow?’

Jorma Puranen is one of Finland’s best known photographers, with his work held in many major international photographic collections. His distinguished career has included a long tenure as Professor of Photography at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki.

Written by another person, succinct yet certainly describes his work as I’ve viewed it.  It also includes a short quote from him,  ‘Photography’s capacity to register reflections is actually its singular gift.  What other medium deals so expressively with the play of light and shadow?’  I thought that was an interesting quote to use as it turns what is so often a problem into a positive aspect and, indeed, one of his series Shadows and Reflections (2015),  photographs of painted portraits , includes ones showing lighting glare on the surface of the painting. Page is here 

Hrair Sarkissian

I then had a look at the website of Hrair Sarkissian   – whose work I have referenced in my Assignment 4 Critical Review.  His biography is divided into three sections – Selected Solo Exhibitions since 1998, Selected Group Exhibitions  since 2014 and then a very brief biography which has an added statement from him about the way he uses photography – the how, why, the process of the work and the effect he wishes his work to have on the viewer.   I then looked at one of his specific artist statement – for his project Last Scene (2016) 

Last Scene’ (2016) is a series of 47 photographs of places in The Netherlands that were chosen by terminally ill patients to go and see as their last wish.

The project centres on the power of a well-loved place to compress an outlook on life into a telling scene that is at once melancholic and joyful. The simplicity of each landscape or scene heightens attention to an inner journey of remembering the past and envisioning a future that no longer includes you.

In contemporary culture the notion of death and dying is often consciously ignored. This project gives the viewer a way in to grapple with the question of where we come from, and where we are going. The images turn into mirrors: on the one hand you try imagine the person who looked at the scene for the last time, while at the same time it encourages introspection: what would my wish be?

These scenes were photographed at the date and time of the actual last visit.

Archival inkjet prints, 42 x 50 cm

Every photograph is different, of course, but the images are held together by the title of the series.  I felt somewhat lead by the sentence ‘The images turn into mirrors: on the one hand you try imagine the person who looked at the scene for the last time, while at the same time it encourages introspection: what would my wish be?’, I didn’t so much try to imagine the person actually but wondered what it was about that particular scene that drew them.

Lewis Bush

His biography has a short and a long version, with a short, written description of his projects since 2012.  He provides a separate list of his Awards and Commendations.

I looked at his statement for the project The Memory of History (2012) 

Three paragraph – a) Clarifying what is for him in this project, the meaning of  ‘nation’ and that of ‘European Union’. b) Process of project and what it does and c) What the project comprises. Links to relevant reviews, to look at the Memory of History box and to order books and prints.


Possible Statement for Assignment 5

Short Version

In H.G. Wells’s book The War of the Worlds (1898) the Martians land on the sandpit on Horsell Common in Woking.  I lived near to the Common for several years, walking there often, and so I decided to re-visit it, taking photographs of anything that caught my attention, to see if I could enter into the mindset of H.G. Wells and gain some understanding of what inspired him there to make it one of the subjects for his book.

When looking through my photographs I re-envisaged the Common as a liminal space, redolent with the history of all those people who passed through it and where the remnants of its ancient landscape constitute a meeting place for memories, sensory experiences  and future imaginings

Longer Version

Books and reading have always been a very large point of my life since I was small and I’m very interested in the way we use the landscape as the subject or background for the stories we tell.  I live very near to Horsell Common which is in a town called Woking in Surrey.  The Common has a large sandpit – the remnants of an ancient river – and this is the place where the author H.G. Wells had his Martians land in the book The War of the Worlds (1898) before they went on to destroy the people and places of many areas of Surrey.

My first idea was to visit all the locations in and near Woking which are mentioned in the book, but I quickly realised that I was being too ambitious in scope and it was better to concentrate first on Horsell Common as this was where the Martians chose to land. I wondered what was about it that lead it to become one of the inspirations for Wells’s book, particularly the sandpit. I hoped that reading up on the history of Woking, particularly what was happening there in the late 1890s, combined with several visits to the Common, could open the door of an H.G. Wells Imaginarium for me to enter.

I’ve walked on the Common many times in past years, but not for a while, so I decided to walk around the Common with an open mind, taking photographs of anything which caught my attention.  When looking at the photographs afterwards I realised anew what an unusual environment this is.  I was looking at the remnants of an ancient landscape; sand the colour of the desert; pale silver birches in the sparse soil, thin trunks like fingers reaching to the sky and skewed branches clinging together on entwining roots as if hanging on to life in a changing world. It seemed to me that this place provides a liminal space; a threshold between past, present and future imagining where I was able to stand alongside H.G. Wells looking together at our surroundings as if through a stereoscope.









10 thoughts on “Exercise 5.7 – Project: Artist’s Statement

  1. annag1611

    Hi helen, I found this publication useful regarding artist’s statement content: Schwartz,J.: 2014. Crusade for art: The Artist Statement. (PDF) in which the most important bits for me were: What are you trying to say with your work? What is the story you are telling?
    Why are you making this work? What inspired the project?
    Why should the viewer care? Why is what you are saying significant or valuable? How are you making me see something in a way I wouldn’t see it otherwise? How are you making me feel something unique or important? What are you making me think about that deserves attention? Why is your voice the best one to transmit this information? i hope it helps to clarify.;)


    1. annag1611

      I’m not quite sure why I called you Helen, Catherine. Sorry. From my experience, the last clump of questions – under Why should the viewer care? – is the most challenging aspect of an AS to write, but in my opinion, the most valuable because that’s what sets your project apart from any other. You have tackled the question of why your voice is the best one for this project really well and you have given a multi-faceted approach to what the common means to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Judy Bach

    Once again a really useful & informative post for me Catherine. Your own statements (both short & long) encapsulate what the common means to you and what your work envisions.


    1. Catherine Post author

      Thanks Sarah-Jane. I know I need to keep practising at these statements. Iv’e been reading up on artist statements, including Joel Colberg, and thinking that the longer version might be leading the viewer to much rather than let them make up their own minds. Any thoughts from you would be very welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sarahjanefield512666

        Another student reminded me, less is more. Leave something (or a lot) for the viewer to find. I have long found the way people write statements a little annoying – some phrases, which we’re encouraged to use, used over and over again. ‘My work is situated up my bottom…. and aims to subvert, challenge and examine my belly button …’ etc, etc. I’m being a little mean to artists and myself by making fun! I liked this tweet. https://twitter.com/colinpantall/status/1234471356764479489?s=20 In the end, for me, honest but enigmatic about the work too – if possible, is the thing to aim for. But that’s much easier said than done. I liked your short one. The longer one is more tricky – I found it interesting – some people read these things but many don’t.


  3. Pingback: Response to Tutor Feedback on assignment 5 | Portraying Landscape

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