Daily Archives: October 14, 2021

The same

In Melbourne, he is called Junky Projects. In Montreal, he is called Junko. Different people, different cities, same street art. The same spirit of the times inspires these artists to make art from junk found on the street and return it to the street.

I saw some of Junko’s work in Toronto in 2016. His work is slightly different to Junky Projects. Junko does animal forms, and Junky Projects does human faces. I’m not sure who the earlier of the two is. Junky Projects work is currently rusting on power poles, fences posts and other supports all over Melbourne.

This is not a case of influence or copying; this is convergent evolution resulting from similar environmental/social/psychological factors. In the natural world, the body plan of dolphins and ichthyosaurs, both adapted for ocean swimming, has many similarities without any close relation between the two.

Self portrait John McCarthy
Fintan Magee, detail of Two Figures Behind Mottled Glass

Another example from the art world of convergent evolution are paintings showing people through thick bevelled textured glass. Both Fintan Magee in Australia and the British artist John McCarthy (not the American abstract expressionist artist John McCarthy) paint very similar images. The resemblance between the two is striking because there is nothing but the optical idea of the image distorted by the glass. Without any other content or meaning to the paintings by either artist, the only variation is the choice of models. There are probably more artists who have painted this same effect that I haven’t seen. 

This time, out of the two artists, I know who was doing the seen through bevelled glass paintings first. I saw an exhibition of McCarthy work at the Eleanor Ettinger Gallery in NY in 2013. And Magee has only been doing paintings in this style since 2020.

Again this is not to suggest that one artist is copying or plagiarising the other, but that originality is not possible, especially when you have very simple ideas. Maybe Adrian Doyle is right: “You are all the same.” Sometimes I reply to his slogan pointing out that I am not all the same and that my feet are very different from my head. However, perhaps in a broader sense, he is correct and that our idea of unique individualism is false, as demonstrated by the similarity amongst artists.


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