Thursday, January 27, 2011

Does Original Art Exist?

Art and Art Criticism: The Specter of Originality by Brian Sherwin

This article is by Brian Sherwin , Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Thinking to myself today I pondered on the issue of originality. It is not rare for me to find individuals making bold charges online about how their art or opinion is original-- and just as many more who are quick to suggest the opposite in response to said bold claims. At the heart of the issue I’m left asking, “Does it matter?”. I’ve decided that originality, if anything, is a specter casting itself over society as a whole-- just as it has always done. What is important is the manner in which artists and art critics convey their personal adaptations of past ideas and influences.

The hard-line approach that so many people tend to have concerning how they define originality alarms me-- especially when one considers the bombardment of influences that we all endure on a daily basis. Everyone is born into influence-- we soak in the world around us like a sponge. Thus, to suggest otherwise is to suggest that one is something beyond human-- and I feel that plot is best left for fantasy novels instead of describing one's artwork.

To deny the influences that surround us is to embrace and display ignorance of the human condition. Everyone takes in the influence surrounding them. Think of it this way, if a young child is placed in nature to fiend for herself she may, if she survives, take on the influences of the wild. In other words, she will interpret the traits and meaning behind the behavior of wildlife and convey them in her own manner strictly for survival. In that sense, do we not do the same thing on a daily basis living within the context of society? Do our children not do that when nurtured by a television set? Think about that.

We are constantly hit with a bombardment of ideas and interpret-- and therefore utilize-- those ideas based upon our individual inclination. Thus, that individuality-- the unique way that we solve problems with the information registered within our brain, so to speak-- is as close to originality as we will ever get. If you go by a hard-line definition of originality it is clear that nothing we create is truly original.

With that in mind, the outcome of any form of production-- meaning the work we do, be it a painting or essay focused on art criticism of a painting, does not amount to pure originality. Some where-- some how-- there was a conscious or sub-conscious path of ideas that sparked the thought resulting in said painting or art criticism. In that sense, it is naïve to claim otherwise aside from legal purposes. We humans are natural borrowers as dictated by our intellect and how we put our thoughts to work. Thus, the bold claims of what is, or can be, considered original really boils down to a mute point.

With the quest for originality comes great irony. For example, all attempts to avoid what has been done before-- the concept of avoiding itself-- is not original because others have long taken on that task. Every artist is linked in some way to artists from the past-- even the idea of picking up a brush to paint is learned based on influences. Furthermore, any art critic-- whether ranting about art on the street or writing for a mainstream art publication-- is not exactly being original in his or her presentation. After all, every art critic owes a tip of the hat to La Font de Saint-Yenne and Denis Diderot-- and certainly there were other forms of art criticism long before their writing.

In closing, there is nothing original in saying that nothing can be original-- even that form of criticism has been done long ago. On that same note, there is nothing original about boldly claiming that ones artwork is truly original compared to documented art history as we know it-- because that has been done before as well. Originality is a specter-- one could question, philosophically speaking, if originality exists. What matters is our individual approach and the manner in which we release our experiences and influences upon a canvas or in words. That is the triumph of art and art criticism-- anything else is a moot point spurred by ego.
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  1. Original art in the greater world of art? I would think that every inspiration has been followed and expressed in some form in some medium on a supporting surface given the length of artistic evolution from the cave paintings.
    Original art from an individual artist? there is not enough time in one lifetime to emulate every last artwork or artistic style or time to use every last medium. originality only exists in those brave artists who ignore all that has gone, and despise, all those dull artworks in museums and similarly ignore what is 'hot' in today's world of art. Those that simply produce their art with a view to their art being discovered posthumously perhaps show the greateast originality.

  2. My UNIQUELY styled Wallpapers. During some ten years, I have developed an extremely complex and unimitable technique that should carry some interest of anyone pursuing a serious artistic ambition and expertise. And it's quantity as well: by now close to 3 000 wallpapers, all created by me. Why not tune in on my rapidly growing art blog? Its Copyright Anyone, as it SHOULD be for this genre!

    Weathertime Wallpaper Windows

    I run Deviant Art in parallell:

    Kraxpelax on Deviant Art


    And I write poetry in several languages:


    There's much in the world that you can't explain.
    It's revealed for you to remember
    by the whispering voice of a distant train
    or a midnight rain in november.

    Horizon within! You can always find
    the keys to Enigma. Let's mention
    one basic Truth: of spirited Mind
    Is Nature naught but extension.

    Internal expanses! In dreams, ridden
    by fear and longing you roam
    that deep Southeast in your soul hidden
    ...on your random journey back home.

    Single Swingle


    Casualidad sopla la sangre
    de alguno señor desconocido
    durante los pocos restantes
    momentos del resplandor de faroles

    que se vislumbran tras el follaje
    flameando de las obsesiónes
    igual efimero como gotas
    del cinzano de la soledad –

    En aquel tiempo me levanta
    dentro uno incidente avejentado
    que en seguida palidece
    al camouflaje de abstraccion;

    chica, nadie conoce que tus grisos
    ojos significan aún; con todo
    el sueño que hube evacuado
    tu escudriñas nuevamente.

    My Spanish poetry!



    Un orage nocturne illmuna maintenant l'Amazonie, franchis les Andes, envoya des jeux de cartes gigantesques et frappantes en bas à la Pampa –

    Puis: petit déjeuner à melon; café fumant !

    À la bague du cigare tu lis, étonné: GÉOGRAPHIE.



    Das Leben dergleichen Halbfaßung
    der Welt wahr immer nicht wahr,
    nicht wahr? Die fristlos Entlaßung
    am Ende wird kaum wunderbar.

    So laßen uns Menschlingen viele
    besonders besonnene zum
    Zeitweilegem Zeiten als Ziele
    des Lebens halbfaßen darum.

    Fremde Gedichte


    Time travel is by up to date confused "expertise" considered logically impossible albeit physically allowed for by Einstein's equations, as Gödel pointed out. Strange fallacy! The Guy travelling "backwards" in his time machine immediately goes into "hypertime", so to speak, and what was "time" is simply one more spatial dimension. No logical problem whatever; I utterly fail to see, even, how this awful misconception could persist for about a century. OK, on return he happened to crash into my poor would be dad, so what? This calamity occurring somewhere in Universe imperceivable to me, the Flatlander. Etc. Do you follow? You should.

    My philosophy:



    And I am a very experienced I Ching practitioner, not for fortunetelling ,but for Wisdom and Spiritual Devclopment. Heavy stuff:

    ? I CHING !

    And: reciprocity. You do me a favor promoting your blog on mine!

    - Peter Ingestad, Sweden

  3. What is wrong about the scope show is they ask your age.

  4. Brian, We don't agree on copyright law but I'll tell you we sure follow the same path to the word 'original'. Your photo would make me think you may be too young to remember many songs from the roaring 30's (may Dad was a musician back then). The title of one of those ragtime pieces best describes what I think original means and I believe you may agree.

  5. Just because an idea is in my head does not mean it is mine, it is as you say influenced by everything around us.

    However the pursuit of originality is an interesting idea, because it is unachievable, just like running after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or trying to reach the divine. What makes these quests so interesting is their failures and what these failure produces... and this is why we should not stop trying to be original....

  6. Why be so concerned with originality? Why not concern ourselves with authenticity instead. I agree that one, short of isolating themselves completely from society and all media, can't be truly original, but they can be authentic. Producing work that comes from the heart or soul, and that reflects their own beliefs, thoughts, and ideas. And isn't that what we should discuss about an artist or their work, or at least wouldn't that be a much more interesting conversation?