I have previously touched upon the idea that there is never any true originality, because everything is inspired by something. A comment to that post argued that even though nobody can be completely original any more, combinations of old elements can create new things which are just as exciting. Yesterday I went to the Serpentine Gallery and saw the current exhibition, which is a collection of the artist Richard Prince's work, called Continuation (running until the 7th of September). In the words of the Serpentine website, who can probably articulate it better than I could:
These works have been critical in challenging ideas of authorship and raising questions about the value of the ‘unique’ artwork.
Therefore, Prince is very honest about taking direct inspiration frome existing art in creating his own; is work is a continuation of what already exists. For example, this beautiful and extremely valuable photograph:
Which is a continuation of the Malboro Man campaign. Searching for information about Prince, I found this interview with the New York Magazine, and this quote:
What do you think of younger artists under your influence, people like Kelley Walker and Wade Guyton? It would be strange for me to think I’m being ripped off, because that’s what I do! In those days, it was called “pirating.” Now they call it “sampling.” There’s a guy on the street who paints copies of my “Nurse” paintings, along with Elizabeth Peytons and Eric Fischls. I think it’s funny. I actually bought one; I thought it was pretty close.
It put an interesting spin on the recognised idea that 'copying' is 'wrong'. I am certainly in the camp which will not buy a fake item of clothing which claims to be designer; even if the designer piece is ridiculously overpriced, it feels like they are cheating the designer out of the credit they deserve for their work. Additionally, I hate reading the 'steal their style' pages in magazines, which completely rob any individuality from an outfit.
But when I was watching Gok's Fashion Fix (yep admitting that I do that is slightly embarrassing) this week Alexa Chung, who makes freqent appearances on 'steal their style', asked the designer behind Missoni if she minds when her designs are copied. Just as Richard Prince, she doesn't mind. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery isn't it? And I'd personally prefer to be on the steal her style page than worst dressed (well, depends on the magazine: I'd be honoured to neighbour WendyB on WWD's Disaster Area!).
Nevertheless, there is a fine line between continuation and imitation. Richard Prince's work is very much his own and it is fascinating to be able to see the thought-process of inspiration and how art can evolve until it is only faintly recognisable (part of the exhibition included casts of car hoods which were then painted so that I actually felt very proud in identifying them correctly as car hoods). And whilst it does become dull and repetitive to see the same thing over and over again, such as when fashion clones copy Kate Moss's once fresh look, creativity is often something born of inspiration. Even if we can no longer be truly original, there is still plenty of creativity left in taking inspiration from old ideas and continuing them into new forms.