There is a link between statement and the state (not only of linguistic order though). Statements are normally made in front of a policeman, mostly in order to prove one’s innocence and deny involvement in some petty or major crime. Once recorded, these accounts become part of inerasable official/legal documents.
Some artists share the same feeling, of appearing before the authorities, when pressed and pressurized for submitting their statements. Their words referred to as the Artist’s Statement, which initially were supposed to help in understanding a person’s creative process, end up being a toss of jargon and cliché. While leafing through artists’ statements one comes across phrases full of complex words and incomprehensible terms. Pages stuffed with a language that may sound eloquent, but is far detached from the actual experience of art making, or even thinking about it in an intelligent manner.
For some odd reason several artists believe (and practice) in turning their statements as sophisticated substitutes for their art works. Instead of sharing ideas and concerns related to (and manifested in) the works of pictorial art, statements usually appear as endeavours separate, dislocated and disconnected from what an artist is creating in the studio. Somehow the presence and preference of words reveal a pressure or the frame of mind in which making of images with hand is perceived a lesser, or non–intellectual activity compared to composing lines in English or any other language about visual art.
This duality, which exists in many minds (and can be another version of the division of white colour jobs and menial task) is the cause of concocting superfluous statements which in reality do not mean much even though they sound superb. Today when artists are not considered or treated artisans, still the old notion of ‘noble savage’ compels them to indulge into this exercise of verbosity.
On the other hand statements of artists, if written intelligently, honestly and somewhat
candidly help in understanding, enjoying and identifying with their art practice. Lately these statements are produced under the same label, but in not long ago past these were known as letters, diaries, interview, comments etc. Words of artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, David Hockney have not only provided a new way to look at their works, but these also inspired and taught artists of their times and of later generations.
A number of artists have not only written about their own works, but commented on other artists as well, along with reflecting on art various movements. But no matter if an artist is discussing cave paintings of Prehistoric period, or critiquing his contemporaries, he, in the end is presenting his point of view about himself and his art, hence the artist’s statement.
The present issue of Art Now Pakistan addresses the link between an artist’s creation in its physical form and his words as statement. Essays by Madyha Leghari and Omer Wasim bring two different, but interesting, exciting and intriguing approaches towards the theme. The issue also includes profile of Unver Shafi Khan, one of the leading artists of Pakistan, Interview with Dr. Theres Rohde and her role as curator, Photo Essay by Jamal Ashiqain, exhibition and book reviews.
While focusing on artist’s statement one also ponders upon those creative individuals who refuse to say or record anything about their works. Probably for them, in place of tiring texts and prolonged paragraphs, a brief, informal and inconspicuous contact with the work is enough to qualify being the artist’ statement: Like the title of their work; tiles which according to Robert Rauschenberg are the last layer of painting!