A touchy topic: artistic theft and copying.

Just a short rant here.

The literary and painting traditions have long been based upon following trends, styles and forms of expression in each successive epoch, and many art academies and literature arts schools are still recommending that students study and mimic famous artists and writers in order to better understand painting and writing. Eventually one is expected to develop one’s own signature style. But how many times removed from the original style is acceptable today? Eg. in the spirit of, in the style of, or a downright copy of another famous artist’s style? I have been copied grossly, two times that I know of. I was annoyed to begin with but soon afterwards I took it as a compliment. However, I do get impatient with authors and painters that “borrow” too much from established artists. Visual artists that come to mind include Rothko, Warhol, Pollock, Nevelson, etc. Authors get a bit more leeway (unless they grossly copy word for word, etc.). Research in regards to fictional works can be tricky, as seen by plagiarism allegations experienced by Michel Houellebecq in his prize-winning novel “La Carte et le Territoire”. With literature I am more offended by the still-taught (so-called) “rules of writing” which can subjugate young writers to generic form.

I understand that literature and painting build on historical traditions of style and technique, and that in this day and age there seems to be almost nothing left that is new and original, and also that copyright is under constant discussion in our global and digitalised world of images and texts that quickly become communal property — but damn!!! … Is the future of art and literature really so bleak that everything new is bound to have been made before? I personally stay away from reading novels when I am working on or planning a new novel, and I do not go to art exhibitions that might influence my work-in-progress. I am not afraid of being accused of copyright infringement, but I do enjoy the freedom of being unencumbered in my own active artistic development processes. Yes, I do find inspiration in techniques and philosophies promoted and used by dead and living artists. But I try not to plagiarise or copy directly. Part of the problem today is that everyone has been influenced by something or someone else artistically, whether it be images, archetypes, popular phrases or the like. The real issue is perhaps how things are used and put together in a larger oeuvre-defining context. What can I say? It’s complicated.

Here are a few of my paintings that are “inspired” by the philosophies of art movements I admire greatly (the first two by Monochromatic Minimalism, the third by Malevich (suprematism), and the fourth is a gut reaction to “Rothko-itis”:

White night no. 1 (Oil on canvas).
White night no. 1 (Oil on canvas).
Meteors in the night (Oil on canvas).
Meteors in the night (Oil on canvas).
Tribute to Malevich (Oil on canvas).
Tribute to Malevich (Oil on canvas).
A Wrist Cutter's Glow (Oil on canvas).
A Wrist Cutter’s Glow (Oil on canvas).

Who knows? Perhaps another artist (famous, or not) has already made these paintings without my knowledge? Perhaps I have been “tainted” or “influenced” subliminally by something I have seen on the internet (I do not watch television). I dunno. But my artistic principles and intent are clear.

But now let us consider “the rules”:

What is art plagiarism?

Art copyright infringement for artists

This question has begun to arise more and more, I see. A painting-style “knock-off” is no more satisfying than a Gucci handbag knock-off. The “lie” is not worth carrying around.

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