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November 5, 2019 / Congau

The Craze for Originality

A piece of art is always original. If it isn’t, it’s a copy and not itself an art. It may still be beautiful, inspiring and thought provoking, but the artistic value would be referring back to the original. A person who copies a piece of art is not an artist.

These precepts are very much understood today, so much so that it has become an obsession. More than anything, the contemporary artist seems to fear doing something that has already been done. There must be originality in everything about a work, not only its execution, not only its message, but the form of art itself.  In its extreme consequence the artist avoids using material that others have used, refrains from any known method of creation and invents for himself a brand-new genre every time he sits down to produce.

Modern art is a crazy quest for originality, and that is based on a misunderstanding. Art must be original, true, but there’s no need for originality in form and language. One is allowed to express one’s ideas by means of well-tried methods. In fact, there is an obvious advantage to using a language that both the artist and the viewer are familiar with. If a new system of expression is used every time, it’s difficult to comprehend it and assess the quality of the work.

Of course, art must not be easily accessible, but it is rather unnecessary to create difficulties that don’t add anything to the artistic value. Why set up barriers if nothing is gained from them? It’s nice to speak another language, but if speaker and listener already share a jargon, why not use that one?

In the classical period of any art, one style was practiced by most performers; it was repeated, and then perfected, and wonderful art arose. The originality was not in the genre but in the single masterpiece.

Modern art has its masterpieces, but the craze for originality also paves the way for charlatans.

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