Thursday, September 27, 2007

Derivative Origins

So, where's the line between the derivative and the original? Does "appropriation" make something derivative any more than working "in the style of" someone?

Ultimately, everything derives from something else right? So, does one require only two elements to create something new?

As a visual study into this phenomena, I have been creating these compositions by manipulating the works of other artists and recombining them (in photoshop, I'm still working on the paintings) . This particular piece was Rothko's Black on Maroon. I changed the proportions, color, and added a self portrait of mine.

The others, below, include Gerhardt Richter, Rothko, Rembrandt, Nerdrum, Jenny Saville, Van Dyke, and some of my paintings as sources.

Does it make them less interesting and engaging if you know the sources, or more so?

On an Aesthetic level I kind of like this one. It's somehow simultaneously both familiar and not.


Jacques de Beaufort said...

Take another look at Glenn Brown...he's dealt with alot of this in a really exciting way.

Mark Tansey also...

New York City said...

Certainly, I like Mark Tansey - but it seems like he responds to the critics (cleverly I must say), but too reactionary for my taste.

I hadn't thought of Glenn Brown specifically in this context... I'll check him out again. I love his work.

And Julie Heffernan does a tremendous amount of "appropriating", though all from somewhat obscure references... I think she uses it more as a visual element rather than an inquiry into originality.

Steven LaRose said...

I began to lose interest in my own work when I was able to point to the source of every single element. I could tell you why I made certain color choices and why I utilized various compositional devices. I would have all the source material tacked to the wall. I often wanted to display them with the paintings as footnotes.

But, like I say, I lost interest in my own little puzzle. The paintings were syllogistically obvious (to me). The sense of discovery had been squashed.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

what does "syllogisitc" mean Steven ?

Steven LaRose said...

Syllogistic reasoning is concerned with using syllogisms to draw conclusions from premises. My paintings became "If this, then that" constructions. I could consequently "work" my way backwards to the blank canvas. There was no mystery.

Anonymous said...


My opinion ... There is a big difference between "derivative" and "associated." The best work is associated. Derivative happens when someone carelessly uses someone else's idea callously or ignorantly copies someone unknowingly.

To be "associated" with another artist is, I think, an honor.

Steven LaRose said...

I like that Chris. "Associated" down-plays the emphasis on "originality" as the goal and makes it more like a "difference of quality" or an "uplifting of a tradition" or something that has more respect for the context of our discoveries.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

you might find this post intriguing...well very intriguing..or maybe I'm just overestimating the intrigue of my blogposts//either way..cut and paste:

New York City said...

Great stuff! I missed a lot, as I was off the grid in rural northern Maine for the past week. I went to visit my grandparents and didn't have access to the computer.

New York City said...

I was having a conversation with a friend about this and described it in a more accurate way than I think I have before.

"I didn't see this work as a culmination, and my work is not entirely philosophical. My goal was to use this appropriation as a jumping off point. As you can see, I'm already leaning away from the source material and beginning to improvise.

I'm thinking of it kind of like jazz.

I'm using the word "steal" in a different sense. My distinction about stealing is this:
If I borrow an idea, it will be an obvious second hand repeat of what it came from.
But if I steal it, I make it my own, I digest it and regurgitate it in a new form.
This is what I mean.

But the point for me is that I'm leaving tracks. I'm thinking in terms of the process of evolution from one point (appropriation) to the other (individual originality) and I want to lay a visual path. My hope is that the more I understand the line where I feel that appropriation (borrowing) ends and creation (stealing) begins, the more I can understand my own creative process and gear my work towards that."

New York City said...

Which I think relates to what Chris was saying about derivation and association.

New York City said...

Oh, and Jacques, for some reason that page isn't coming up.

The browser says: 404 error- page not found.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

try this link