Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spare the rod

Most art copycats attempt to slip under the that’s-not-your-idea-stop-it-or-pay-for-it wall and hope that their copy will be mistaken for a ‘version’, or even better a clever twist, on the original. That’s not for Jan of Otago whose house is featured in the latest Resene magazine, Habitat. 'Colour loving' Jan woke up one day to the realization that her house was 'not her’. What to do? What Jan did was to let her daughter Fiona have a go at brightening up the bathroom. The result? A triumph of 'unexpected colours”. Well unexpected if you haven’t seen one of Michael Parekowhai’s Cuisenaire sculptures that is. Checking out the art on other walls of Jan's house that seems kind of unlikely.

Ok, as someone once said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and would you believe it that someone was a famous eighteenth century art collector Charles Caleb Colton. But there’s copying and copying. Right? Interestingly enough, Cuisenaire rods themseves are part of a case that is often quoted in copyright case law when trying to decide what is and what isn’t able to be copyrighted as art. In 1963 an Australian case, Cuisenaire vs Reed, decided that the main object of production had to be creating something that even if it was utilitarian was basically designed to appeal to the aesthetic tastes of the people who look at it. We’re drifting here. Should Jan send a cheque to MP for artistic services rendered? Probably. Flowers, chocolate, and champagne? Definitely. 
Images: top Michael Parekowhai's work The Far Side at Michael Lett and bottom Jan and Fiona brighten up the bathroom