Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tim's Vermeer (2013)

Director: Teller
Writers:   Penn Jillette, Teller
Features: Tim Jenison, Philip Steadman, David Hockney

Inventor Tim Jenison is seeking to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, in order to test the theory that he painted with the help of optical devices.

Details about Vermeer's life are little known and there is no evidence of him getting any formal training in painting. Apart from the works that he produced, there are no remains of any trial works and his paintings don't have sketch marks or lines that are common in most of the paintings since the painters try to get the geometry right first. These points along with Vermeer's photo-realistic paintings have led to some contending that he used optics to get the paintings done though none have reproduced such a device till Tim Jenison looked into it. He finds out that he could involve a concave mirror and a comparator mirror allowing easy matching of color values. He proceeds to replicate the room that Vermeer painted for his 'The Music Lesson' and paint the same thing again using his technique. The result is what you have in the film's title-'Tim' Vermeer'. It took him almost a year to replicate the room and over four months to do the painting. The documentary is filmed over five years from 2008 to 2013.

Many of the art critics are repulsed by the idea that Vermeer could have been using mechanical aid to do his painting which according to them would have made him more of an inventor than an artist. The documentary makers contend that it is their problem to do the segregation as artist and technologist when one can be both at the same time. As for me, I am not really into paintings but I can understand why people appreciate it. Before the invention of photography it was indeed a remarkable skill to reproduce imagery on a canvas. The importance of Modern Art, which is supposed to evoke something in the viewer-whose interpretation can be very subjective, is more apparent now since replications can be easily done by machines. 

As for the documentary film, it was a great watch. I am really very poor when it comes to painting and don't have the patience to even trace stuff. I appreciate art (films can be works of art) but am not into paintings as of now, maybe I will have a rethink when I visit Kochi Biennale which starts on December 12th and will run for three and half months. Lets see.

Rating: 3.5/5