I’ve made some memory stations and begun the memory practice. Maybe I’ll try to memorize Jerusalem (at least parts of it) by William Blake. The organization of the space and creating the stations is not separate from the work of sketching out the composition on the canvases. The placement and spacing are important.
I imagine the paintings might take the form of a still life that opens onto a vast landscape. Blake had a vision that beheld the universe in a grain of sand, infinity in an hour and the celestial city built on the rolling green English countryside. I want my art to share some of this all-encompassing perspective.
The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood,
Were builded over with pillars of gold,
And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood.
I’ve found that memory practice leads to amazing experiences. It is a way to attune to subtle influences and bring to conscious awareness the too-often suppressed messages from the unconscious. In her brilliant book, the Art of Memory, Frances Yates quotes Cicero’s recollection of the poet Simonides, who was said to be inventor of the memory art:
…persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.
6 thoughts on “The Memory Theatre-an artwork in process”
As you live with this poem, will any imagery of other artists–e.g. Breughel, or Blake himself–who have used “Jerusalem” as theme interfere with your own visions?
I don’t know that it would interfere. Blake’s paintings inspire me, but not to paint like him. No one can. What Bruegel painting do you mean? I’d love to see it. Actually, I was having second thoughts on Jerusalem after reading in Wikapedia that his poem contained a “cast of billions.” Might be a little to ambitious. What do you think?
I guess the Breughel I was thinking of is actually the one known as Daniel And The Revelation—the fall of the rebel angels—which image is all over the internet with Blake’s “Jerusalem” superimposed on it. (I think if you Google or Bing Blake’s Jerusalem, you’ll probably see it.)
As to whether Jerusalem is an ambitious choice…..not if you stick to just the “chariots of fire” preface. I would never attempt the whole (Milton) poem. Of course you must choose what resonates for you, or else you’ll go nuts, with such an intense project. I think you should love whatever poem you choose!
Thanks for the helpful comments. I chose Jerusalem on a whim, knowing little about it. After reading it more closely, I feel it is perfect for the project. Approaching this poem in this way opens it up for me in a way that a passive reading does not. I can now more fully appreciate it’s epic grandeur-it’s bombastic beauty.
I’ll check out the Breughel painting.
Blake’s genius is awe-inspiring, darling — I cannot think of a contemporary artist/writer that even comes close.This art you describe is unlike anything I’m familiar with — these Memory Stations. Quite fascinating!
I like that at the end of his life he began to learn Italian so he could read Dante in the original. Plus he was busted for sedition-a medal of honor in my book.