Friday 10 January 2014

A Guest at the Memory Palace

Last night I had the very great pleasure of being a guest at the opening of Margje Bijl's exhibition 'A Memory Palace of Her Own' at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

As you will remember from my blog post last Autumn about the preparations for the exhibition, Margje's art centres on the meaning of image and identity, as she bares an uncanny resemblance to Jane Morris.  It goes much further than that - Margje takes that surface and explores the echoes in life, art and the clash in Margje/Jane sharing the same space, the same paths.  From tomorrow you can go along to the William Morris Gallery and see her beautiful journey for yourself.

As for the event, it was a pleasure to be involved.  Margje prepared a sound file, a fragment of which can be heard here and while it played, she drew an image described in the story...

Margje Drawing
Copyright: Sebastiaan Veldhuisen
The story in the sound piece revolved around Margje's dream visits to William and Jane Morris' homes and her experiences there.  There was a mixture of dream and reality which played beautifully with the dual nature of her art.  After that it was my pleasure to lead a question and answer session with Margje about reflecting a Stunner in image and the contrasts in how she sees her muse as opposed to how she is generally perceived, or how Rossetti famously saw her.  It was fascinating to talk to Margje about her own form of 'biography' of Jane/herself and how revealing it was about Jane and Margje as well as Margje as Jane.  I love how her words provide a spoken narrative to possibly the most unknowable of Rossetti's muses.

Margje's Art
Copyright: Sebastiaan Veldhuisen
It isn't just through the beautiful photographs that Margje explores Jane.  Her art and portraits give back an uncompromising gaze of a stunner born anew through her 21st century avatar (many thanks to Jan Marsh for using the word 'avatar' to describe Margje, just the most perfect word).  I have never seen such a battle rage between two women for experience and truth to be revealed, from Jane's passive unwillingness and Margje's courageous exploration.

Jan Marsh and Margje
Copyright: Sebastiaan Veldhuisen
It's always wonderful to see your heroines in real life, and for the third time I got to see Jan Marsh as she closed the presentation element of the evening by discussing how Jane Morris' life and death will be remembered in this centenary year.  What I can guarantee is that you will not see a more innovative way of exploring the icon, the lover, the wife, and the woman than Margje Bijl's art.

Margje's exhibition runs from tomorrow until 9th March and the exhibition page for the William Morris Gallery is here.


  1. A "memory palace"? Is that anything like Sherlock's "mind palace", I wonder?

  2. Hi Marcheline,

    Thanks for your curiosity, I choose this title for several reasons...

    The title partially refers to an ancient method of improving your memory by 'placing' items in an environment (a home) you know by heart. The images that were inspired by Jane Morris are embedded in our collective memory and Jane even plays a central role in my subconscious. When describing these dreams, I am unravelling my own mind filled with reflections on my doppelganger.

    With my photographs, staged and photographed at Jane's former homes I transformed her world into my own. Decorating a room with these pictures, I wanted to create a place in which Jane could be remembered without being overshadowed by William Morris and D.G. Rossetti.


  3. Dear Both

    I think I meant or intended to mean that Janey Morris is Margje's avatar - i.e like an alter ego from the celestial world. which is the role it sounds like she plays in Margje's subconscious already
    all best

  4. Hi Jan, yes I see what you mean, although I think it would work either way, such is the dual nature of Margje/Janey's art.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Actually, thanks for being marvellous, generally. Honestly, I would not be doing any of this writing and art history stuff without your work. I don't tell enough people that they are wonderful inspirations for me and you are one, Jan, to me and to countless others of my friends in the world-wide Pre-Raphaelite world. Thank you.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx