Monthly Archives: November 2009

Art & Originality

I spend some time worrying about my lack of personal style and I know I am not alone in this, recently a few other bloggers have raised this issue, notably Catherine Jeffrey and Mary Anne Cary.

Robert Genn runs an interesting blog called “The Painter’s Keys”. This week he wrote an article about Claude Lévi-Strauss and his theories on individuality in art The artifacts of our cultures. It was Lévi-Strauss’s contention that originality is only a requirement of recent Western culture. In other societies (not just “primitive” ones) the role of the artist has been to study the forms and styles of the past masters and reproduce them as closely as possible. Innovation is something that merely evolves over time and is often accidental. Our current obsession with originality is quite new and is not actually considered necessary in all art forms. Musicians still seem to consider it quite all right to spend their lives studying and performing the creations of others and even amongst composers and popular song-writers it is OK, in fact expected, to borrow styles from the past.

Mr. Genn says:

Now something about us. If we enter our studios with the idea that we are simply going to dip once more into the pot, our little egos may just float off into Neverland. Work might become the simple honouring of past myths and current genres. While that thought may be upsetting for some, this approach kind of makes you feel good. It may even promote a new freedom of expression, and unburden the artist from a stifling egocentricity. Taking part in a great and noble tradition, we might take the pressure off.