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I hate the idea of hav­ing to write an artist state­ment, but it has become nec­es­sary. I find it very hard not to sound either pompous or banal (or both). Here’s my cur­rent ver­sion. Any sug­ges­tions for improvement?

David Rourke | Artist Statement

“This is an occu­pa­tion known as paint­ing, which calls for imag­i­na­tion, and skill of hand, in order to dis­cover things not seen, hid­ing them­selves under the shadow of nat­ural objects, and to fix them with the hand, pre­sent­ing to plain sight what does not actu­ally exist. And it justly deserves to be enthroned next to the­ory, and to be crowned with poetry.”
—Cen­nino d’Andrea Cen­nini, circa 1400 A.D.


My paint­ings are about sim­ple things care­fully observed. When I’m plan­ning a paint­ing, I often just walk around my house, look­ing for an object—a pair of blue jeans, a paper bag, a dress bor­rowed from my wife—that feels like it might be the right sub­ject of a paint­ing. I then plan the com­po­si­tion around it.


I work directly from life. Real­ist paint­ing is less about the mechan­ics of ren­der­ing than it is about learn­ing to accu­rately observe light, form, and color. Each paint­ing is an exer­cise in let­ting go of preconceptions.


I’m deeply aware that I’m par­tic­i­pat­ing in a tra­di­tion of crafts­man­ship that goes back well over 600 years. There’s no point, how­ever, in re-making what oth­ers have done, so the core of the thing is to respect the craft while express­ing my own self. The bal­ance between those goals is end­lessly engaging.

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2 Responses

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  1. Jeff Hayes says

    I really, Really object to the need to write a state­ment. Most of them con­tribute lit­tle to the expe­ri­ence of that artist’s work… they’re usu­ally about as use­ful as a canker sore.

    What you’ve writ­ten is prob­a­bly as good as any, in that it suc­cinctly sums up what you’re all about, but then I think your paint­ings speak clearly for them­selves. That said, let me pro­pose some­thing rad­i­cal — why not just stop after the Cen­nini quote? It’s pro­found, ele­gant, intrigu­ing, and leaves a lot to the imag­i­na­tion. If I saw that on a web­site, it would cer­tainly send me off on a tan­gent think­ing about the rela­tion­ship between the quote and the paint­ings. That’s prob­a­bly exactly what a state­ment is sup­posed to do…

    Just my $0.02.

  2. David Rourke says

    Thanks, Jeff.

    I’m assum­ing that state­ments orig­i­nated with abstract and (espe­cially) con­cep­tual art, in which some kind of writ­ten descrip­tion is needed in order to help the viewer fig­ure out what the hell that thing on the wall is sup­posed to be. Most clas­si­cal real­ist art, by con­trast, is fully able to speak for itself. So we clas­si­cal real­ist artists tend to think of writ­ing an artist’s state­ment as an irri­tat­ing redun­dancy, while a con­cep­tual artist might find writ­ing the state­ment to be the most inter­est­ing part of cre­at­ing the piece.

    And yet, depend­ing on what part of the art game you want to play in, state­ments are sim­ply required. I’ll put some thought into your sug­ges­tion about just using the Cen­nini quote.

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