Chapter 11: Titles
I find titles on artwork give an insight into an artist’s creative intention. Especially if that intention is not evident in the artwork. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to see a piece in a gallery or museum that I don’t quite understand, only to check for the title and find the word “Untitled”. Or to find that the title is in another language that I cannot read.
On the other hand, sometimes I’ll look at a work and then the title and not see the relationship between the two at all. Comical titles say a lot about the personality of the artist. And I know artists that sometimes “cheat” and change the title of a work to fit the concept of a themed group show.
I find many artists do not give any thought to a title until the piece is completed, then struggle to come up with something. It seems this applies mostly to artists who create abstract works that are more intuitive than planned. On the other hand, in my own work, I have a concept in mind most of the time, and sometimes come up with the title first. I like to keep my titles short – one or two words – and theoretical. If the title is too long, it won’t fit on the tag for one thing, plus the viewer may not bother to read it.
So how important is a title then? Should the work speak for itself, making the title unnecessary? I would hope the artwork would speak for itself. But a little nudging in the right direction doesn’t hurt.