I just viewed a documentary film about Tim Jenison's quest to recreate a Johannes Vermeer painting. Tim is an inventor and thinker, and figured out that most likely Vermeer used a camera lucida with an additional convex lens, to paint his amazing canvases. Sparked by Mr. Hockney’s book “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters,” Jenison set out to create like conditions of Vermeer's (including sawing his lathe in half and extending it to achieve the correct length of spindled leg of the chair) in order to paint. His use of mirrors and lenses makes a strong case for Vermeer's methods, which were never documented. It was just "Wow".
Afterward, the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood hosted a Q & A with the esteemed panel of Jenison, Penn and Teller. There were a few things that just made me so happy:
- It is not 'wrong' to use technology or what is available today to make art. This reminded me of my engraving class last September. When tested by 'hand pushers' - hand engravers who hand push as opposed to using pneumatic power to push gravers - my instructor responded with the fact that painters/artisans around the time of the invention of electric lighting would not have continued painting by daylight and candlelight when electric lights became available. That would have been dumb. Why would an artist curb the ability to improve their art and move forward? Ever?
- When asked what's next? Another experiment like the one that came out of this project (by the way, it wasn't their intention to make a documentary about Jenison, it turned out that way!)? Penn stated that he does things that interest him... he's not interested in creating a brand or doing a series. He's in it for the love of exploration and figuring stuff out. Yes. Yes. This is what really good stuff comes out of, I think. He is following his interests. Just like his magic, it is that, but it is the deeper meaning and amazing stuff that lies beneath.
- Back in the early 1800's, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, a portrait drawer and painter by trade, drew technically amazing figures. When in New York back in the 90's, I was able to see an exhibit of Ingres' work, and the big buzz about his work was that used mechanical means to achieve his amazing drawings. There were things that pointed to that ~ like some strange distortions of limbs that happened that would have happened by a means achieved with other than just the eye. In "Tim's Vermeer", there were curves and edges that happened, upon closer inspection of the original, that happened because of the curve of a lens, perhaps. Love this.