In late 2015, renowned Singaporean artist Jane Lee discovered artworks which were uncannily similar to hers on Instagram. It appeared that Manila-born artist Monica Delgado, who currently resides in New York, visited Singapore years ago and encountered Lee’s paintings. Delgado was thereafter inspired to rework some of the creations she conceptualised during her days in college.
Lee’s signature painting style includes squiggles, layering and fabric-like effects which can similarly be found in Delgado’s artworks. However, Delgado claimed that she used processes and materials that were different to Lee’s to create her paintings. The art community in Singapore has pointed out the striking similarities in both Lee’s and Delgado’s paintings.
When asked for her views on this matter, Lee stated that she was both angry and shocked at the same time. Lee said that she felt as though she was looking at her own paintings when she saw Delgado’s works on Instagram.
While some artists in the creative community have condemned Delgado’s acts as lazy and unfortunate, many others were of the view that imitation is a form of flattery. In fact, historically, artists have been known to “borrow” styles from a variety of artists and reinterpret them in their own ways.
It is important to note that one does not need to have reproduced an entirely identical copyright work for infringement to take place. In order to prove copyright infringement in Singapore, a substantial amount of the original work, quality wise, must have been copied. The Court also takes into account the nature of the portion that has been copied or reproduced.
This incident also highlights how important it is for artists to constantly re-invent themselves and keep ahead of the curve. Even though many have been trying to replicate Lee’s painting style, it helps that Lee continues to create novel artworks through new and unique concepts as well, through the use of different mediums.