Originality. Not derived from something else; fresh and unusual...short and sweet in its definition if reducing reality to black and white is a comfortable practice.
The question and debate surrounding originality is as much a focus in the creation of art as the artists exploration for their creative voice. This is a truism particularly in the ultra competitive atmosphere of online auction venues such as eBay. Yet as subjective and complicated an idea, some have taken it upon themselves to single handedly tackle the abstract concept of “wholly original” art, deeming theirs the only truly “original” work available in their chosen style. These artists not only preach their originality, but attempt to police it through the formation of elitist “clubs”, email intimidation of artists whom they believe haven’t been innocently inspired by them but are actively attempting to copy their styles, colors, or subject matter in order to simply sell their wares, and make libelous public statements regarding those artists.
I have been both fascinated and disgusted by the course of events inspired by the issue of originality in art as of late. The delusional notion that Contemporary artwork can be entirely original free from elements derived from artistic influences from the field’s predecessors is a rather arrogant notion at best. Unless an artist lives the secluded life of a hermit in a cardboard box of sorts, free from media or educational guidance, it is virtually impossible to emulate the very definition of “original” through the creation of a work of art. Through a bevy of movements and the masters who forged the paths through the great artistic revolution from academic realism to art for arts sake, inspiration has inevitably trickled down from the first cave drawings to the modern day artist in the search for an individual voice of expression. This unavoidable chain of influence is purely human in its existence, as it is our nature to retain inspiration in the conscious or even subconscious where it may resurface without preconception or coaxing in the evolution of society.
So, it becomes not the question of “originality”, but “individuality” after all things considered.
So just who is qualified enough (if anyone could be qualified in such an area of subjective considerations) to differentiate between originality and individuality in something as ambiguous as an artistic creation? Some may believe they have the authority to make such judgment calls, but it all really boils down to personal opinion and little more.
Artistic “essence” and vision can not be duplicated, even when “copied”. There will always be the residual artistic fingerprint in the finished piece. Unless replicated artificially through technical means, an artist can not single handedly undermine the artistic integrity of another through inspiration and the creation of a work of art considered to be “derived” from another. No one can steal the essence of another anymore than they can steal their soul. If that was the truth then may the art gods smite me for believing otherwise as I am quite confident that no one could duplicate my emotions, visions, and artistic voice -- even if they were to reproduce my work to match it. There is just no way - I refuse to believe it. If I did then I would have to stop creating because I would know my voice was no longer apparent, or unique. There is a difference between having a sincere emotional response to the world using ones personal artistic voice and instincts and the rip off that strives to have the passion of the latter.
And so...the debate ventures forth into the future as this question will not be answered in our time if at all, destined to become more complicated and heated in its delivery and reception as time progresses and artists come and go. “Originality” as an issue in the art sellers market is nothing more than an advertisement tempting the viewer with catch phrases and buzz words playing on implications and semantics. But the conceited marketing geniuses behind the incessant tooting of their own original horns don’t want the general art buying and collecting public to know this...
Or they might be out a slogan.