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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Is originality under-rated in the art world?

So is originality under-rated in the art world? I know many will say there is nothing new – but I don’t think that is true. Whilst many ideas and formats are revisited – the end result must surely add a new or unique dimension – otherwise it is just a copy? As artists we should surely strive to bring something new to the arena however small? Many artists reference other artist's work - the National Galleries Residency for example encourages responses to works in their collection. Should we expect some sort of space between when the original work was produced and when the new work is made? Or at the other extreme - is it as case of anything goes and copyright/ intellectual property rights are redundant and pointless?
Derby is currently in the throes of FORMAT festival and one of the pieces of work shown has bought this issue to the forefront for me. Joanna Geldard - an artist whose work I have a lot of respect for - produced a fantastic piece of work shown in 2014. An internally lit greenhouse with etched panels:
I had seen some publicity for FORMAT and one piece in particular caught my eye – an internally lit greenhouse with etched panels. I was really pleased to think Joanna had produced some work for the festival - that she had got some recognition and representation in what is becoming an increasingly high profile international event.
However, it turns out that this is a recent piece by a totally different local artist. The FORMAT piece does look great – and for those unfamiliar with Joanna’s work it no doubt appears a very interesting and original work. Google ‘greenhouse art’ and whilst it is clear that quite a few artists use a greenhouse to present work there are no immediately obvious ones using etched panels. It is of course possible that two artists can have the same/ a similar idea and not be aware of each other’s work - this seems unlikely in this case due to the fact that both artists live in the same area and Joanna’s work got a lot of social media exposure as it was being developed. 
So where does ‘influence’ end and plagiarism begin? Is it OK to create something so similar to someone else’s work that it is assumed to be their piece?  Should an influence be referenced – or at least acknowledged in some way? My personal opinion is that originality is really important and I have always felt that way. I can remember being really upset as a teenager when a friend would copy everything I wore (even then the idea of being a clone didn't appeal). My Mum said ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ to try to make me feel better. It didn’t help…..

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