Secret Knowledge by David Hockneys – Movie Review Example
01 April 2009 David Hockneys Secret Knowledge The movie Secret Knowledge proposes viewers an interesting and amazing approach to new knowledge about art and techniques used by such painters as Ingres, Velázquez and Caravaggio. The uniqueness’ of the movie is that it analyses and evaluates different approach and tools such as optics and lenses the painters used in their work. The plethora of ideas underlines the point about the primacy of matter and, in effect, optics functions as a main tool. Hockneys gives examples of unique techniques when imagery is assured as ever: the autumn weather parallels human mortalities; the stark branches, with anthropomorphic elbows, suggest snipers; the continued personification of the city — integrating objects and living organisms in one whole — keeps the notion of a collective identity and heroic purpose in mind.
David Hockneys explains that the painters’ keen eye sees an unexpected juxtaposition, registering empty clothes alongside sandbags that are shuffled in the reflections of cold beveled edges on waning mirrors of poor wardrobes. This exact image, with its hint of chance, shows how little poetic artistry has been lost to propaganda. The thought occurs that precious objects will be lost in the devastation that Velázquez and Caravaggiohad responsibility to protect. Conceptually, the bomb-site is close to the rubbish-dump in its interplay of man and objects, human absence being just as poignant here since it is brought about by violence. Using examples of art works, the author proves that the competitive market of the Renaissance period demanded new and innovative appropriates, and the artist found them in optics.
The facts and examples proposed by Hockneys portray the Renaissance as a period of great changes and scientific innovations applied to art and painting. Previously, many people see the Renaissance era as a period of artistic genius and creativity while Hockneys depicts it as a period of new approaches to painting and the period of innovations in art. This strong idea of noble forbears staring out from torn canvases with the eyes of men facing a firing squad — indeed, that they were born with such terror in their eyes — synthesizes history and the present crisis in a compelling image: the aristocracy, it suggests, have always known their days of privilege were numbered, that a Revolution was coming. The pictures referred to are in themselves sufficient proof of the open-mindedness and receptivity to which these lines testify. When at other times, in other places, the artists set to work on a bright-colored motif, they responded to those colors immediately and in exact proportion to their intensity. Never did they distorted what they saw for arbitrary reasons, or misrepresented their sensations in compliance
The problem they tackled lay elsewhere -- it lay within themselves. Not only did they entertain no preconceived ideas on the subject of "reality," but their only interest in it was the sense impressions it supplied them with. This attitude was dictated by a conviction that art is nothing without sincerity, without integrity. Realizing how prone we are, all of us, to smother spontaneous perception and sensation under an overgrowth of habits and preconceptions, they made a point of trusting entirely to their direct sensorial experience of objects. To this desire to drink at the source was added the determination to purify their vision of everything alien to it. It is common knowledge that, in our usual manner of looking at the world, we rely heavily on memory and recognize objects rather than see them. The Renaissance art put out of mind what they knew by experience of the object before them and painted, as accurately as they could, only the features and colors it presented to their eye.
I suppose that Hockneys’ ideas, expressed in the movie, will change the understanding and meaning of art and the Renaissance period. The first wave of Renaissance was based, it is true, on a rational, intellectualized system of symbols. The latter, based not on the reasoning mind but on the senses, set out to give plastic. Furthermore, the keen interest he took in these experiments in near-abstraction, in which the very shape of objects melts away in modulations of colors, is confirmed by his deliberate resumption of them after his recovery. It is easy to identify the canvases executed before his operation, when the waterfall had spread an amber-colored film over the crystalline lens of his eyes: these canvases are not only woolly in outline but abnormally yellow in tone. Those painted after the operation, on the contrary, have an almost acid freshness of tone. Now some of the latter group, some of the most characteristic among them in fact (whose documented dating, moreover, is unimpugnable), nevertheless retain a haziness of outline which renders the subjects unrecognizable. These works can only be regarded as experiments in science of art deliberately undertaken. It was, moreover, a much more logical fulfillment than is generally realized. To assume that the Renaissance expressly chose to limit painting to the representation of reality is to misconstrue the esthetic. Realizing how prone we are, all of us, to smother spontaneous perception and sensation under an overgrowth of habits and preconceptions, they made a point of trusting entirely to their direct sensorial experience of objects. The Renaissance art put out of mind what they knew by experience of the object before them and painted, as accurately as they could, only the features and colors it presented to their eye.
Hockney, D. Secret Knowledge. dir. by D. Wright, BBC (Main Listing), 2002.