James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, "Mememormee...."
I am not a scholar of Joyce. But from what I have read I can say that his genius is remarkable. When working on some pieces for an exhibition on Joycean-themed images I started to explore the writings of Joyce from a different viewpoint. I wondered what it must have been like to be in his head with so many overlapping ideas, words, and imagery. It seemed to me that Joyce wanted to encompass more than just mere words in his writing. His invented language for Finnegans Wake comes alive when it is read aloud and on hearing this, I started to “see” images in the sounds.
“Mememormee”, is a painting that started with a portrait done from Joyce’s death mask. While working on it I became aware that I was entering an other worldness. While I painted I heard repeatedly the words, in memorium, in memorium... The Word, Mememormee, taken from the last passage of Finnegans Wake where Annalivia Plurabelle is dying, suited the sounds that I was intuitively hearing, so this became the title of the painting.
While working abstractly I often reach a place in the painting where I have to ‘listen’ to the painting in order to know what happens next. It cannot be worked through as an intellectual process, rather an intuitive one. As I painted, night-time images and sounds of the sea entered my mind in waves and I stared to see an imaginary seascape at night of the view from the back of Joyce’s Tower. However, the physical image of the Tower is not present in the painting. I felt it didn’t need to be there as Joyce’s craggy profile embodied the spirit of the Tower. The waves from the sea wash over his memory, crashing and lashing against the visionary words contained in Finnegans Wake.
As a visual artist, I felt the need to physically reunite the last and first sentences of the book in a patchwork of torn collage amidst the splintered shoreline of the coast, which contains the memories of my youth, as well as being the setting for many of Joyce’s works.