The question of copying/imitating has always fascinated me as an artist. In traditional East Asian practice, one begins by copying from his teacher and then moves on to copying the masters and then, if the student/ artist is still alive, he can start doing a bit of his own work with trace of originality. In Western contemporary art practice, however, if there is any trace of knowingly copying another artist's work, it can be the end of the artist's career.
In Through Masters' Eyes I asked two sets of artists, in Taiwan and New York, to "copy" a work by the 17-century landscape master Shitao, but in their own styles. I initially sent an image of the Shitao landscape to two skilled artist-copiers who each made a copy of the work. Those copies were then sent on to two additional artist-copiers, who subsequently made their own copies, and so on. This process produced two different lineages of copies, each containing five or six paintings, with all but the last having a "descendant." Each was an original in its own way, and each displayed subtle and not-so-subtle differences from the others.
2004 Los Angeles County Museum of Art