For his graduation thesis at the London Royal College of Art, Hao Zhenhan commissioned a number of pieces from China’s most notorious ‘copycat’ art factories. But instead of asking for knockoff Monets or Picassos, Hao had the artists paint themselves.
If we could temporarily ignore the moral consideration and legal consequences, imitation goods in China can enliven or dramatise Chinese thinking and develop into a creativity of their own. The Chinese culture of imitation can even be integrated into the educational system. The relationship between imitation and creativity can be intriguing, which can be discussed through imitating creativity and creative imitation.
From two craftspeople at China’s porcelain capital Jingdezhen, where artisans churn out replicas of Chinese and Dutch pieces, he asked for a vase and a bowl decorated with their experiences at work. From five painters at Dafen Village, the well-known center for fine art copies, he asked for paintings that showed the artists and their work spaces.
The resulting paintings are all rather wonderful, unsurprisingly you can’t rip-off Pierre Subleyras or Vincent Van Gogh without being a pretty good artist yourself.