“We are no longer living in a world simply consisting of original, single or isolated ideas and images, but rather translations, transformations and appropriations. I am interested in exploring the relationship between the original and the second-hand. Is it possible that all originals could be deemed second-hand and every second-hand could be a ‘new’ original?”
– Yaoyao Ding
Yaoyao Ding is a trained painter who studied MA Photography to explore the notion of the ‘new original’. Her graduation series Second Hand Images consists of painting over photographs taken of famous paintings. The oil paints on canvas, each reproduce a famous Picasso or Klimt, as captured at the museum; they accurately reproduce both the frame and the caption, in addition to the corners of other paintings. Ding is not only replicating the paintings themselves, but her complete and peripheral experience of being faced with each piece of art. To begin this re-enactment, the colours of the walls surrounding the painting are taken into account, alongside the lighting and weather conditions that effect how the colours are both perceived and captured by the camera. In addition to the colour, the angle at which Ding has observed the paintings is considered, which is in relation to her height. Ding also plays with the size of her canvases, as the subject of her completed paintings are the photographs taken. She feels free to resize them to her taste – not too dissimilar to when deciding what format to print your digital photos.
Ding suggests that viewing the paintings within the museum environment is, theoretically, the most original experience that can be had, yet, it seems impossible in practice, “they are always part of an environment no matter how inconspicuous the space is designed to be.” Her work aims to ask if there is a meaningful difference between photography and painting. Each of her paintings are founded on a form of replication, but the methodology involved and the finalised works are within themselves, original, “I even can’t copy myself.”
Potentially, the idea that Ding cannot replicate herself is actually comforting; it implies that our hands – the ‘human touch’ - are somehow always involved, from each brush stroke to clicking the camera button, “The hand becomes a machine, which couples with another machine and makes them work […] Hands keep continually transforming.” Ding has unravelled what is considered either original or replica and also the value that has been assigned to these words. “I think my work is not only about reproduction, but also about uniqueness. I repainted the Klimt, I found I could not even copy myself. So I can only deduce that, although it may be a reproduction, my work is unique.”