Saturday, April 24, 2010

Thoughts on Originality

I'm not the most original person in the world. I amuse myself with constantly shifting interests, which satisfies but deprives me the ability to dive deeper.

In the post-modern (whatever it means) world, originality seems to some the sole criteria of artistic achievement, which should not be. One can have much to say without falling into banality, even if not most original. Many of these works are to be treasured, meanwhile there are many people strive to achieve originality which often result in creating something best described as rubbish.

Truly great who broke boundary by leaps are rare. The best example is Giotto di Bondone.

Flight into Egypt by Giotto
Flight into Egypt, Giotto

The massacre of the innocents by Giotto di Bondone
The Massacre of the Innocents, Giotto

Once a boundary is broke, the greats had to follow the rules they laid out to create a body of work to make a statement - otherwise the instantly recognizable Van Gogh or Warhol are not to be, and their impact would be much smaller.

Starry Night by Van Gogh
Starry Night, Van Gogh

Wheat Field with Crows by Van Gogh
Wheat Field, Van Gogh

Banana by Andy Warhol
Banana, Andy Warhol

Turquoise Marilyn by Andy Warhol
Marilyn, Andy Warhol

Sometimes, the originality comes with the utilizing a new technique, new media, or new perspective.

My painting Devils' Dance - created around the time George W. Bush was drumming up to invade Iraq and quashing civil liberties in the US - was not the most original painting depicting dance. Actually, the images of the dancers were borrowed from the famous Dance by Henri Matisse. My painting was also not the most original depicting book burnings with bonfire, neither was the attempt to modify existing iconic images to suit new messages or needs. But the specific way I deployed was unique to me at the particular moment for a particular message and mood I tried to convey. Despite the fact that large portion of these two paintings were similar, the stark contrast between the original message and the new one was pronounced and poignant, therefore, I dare say this painting was a success.

Devils' Dance / 魔鬼的舞蹈 / Teufels Tanz
Devils' Dance, Matthew Felix Sun

Dance by Matisse
Dance, Henri Matisse

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