Marcus Tullius Cicero, in Julius Caesar’s Rome, created a memorization technique called the method of loci. This mnemonic device, consistently popular until early modernity (when tele-prompters and other technologies limited its relevance) required the imaginative creation of a particular architecture to aid memorization. Each imagined room represented a theme of the speech to be memorized, the items in the rooms related to details of the subject matter. One simply had to move through their imagined interior and examine its contents, in order to retrieve a full oratory into consciousness.
For those of us with unreliable recall, this may seem an unwieldy double memorization. And, besides, how can the ideas of ancient roman statesman be related to Aiden deVin’s whimsically beautiful paintings, which are clearly descendants of contemporary painting practices with their combination of casual humour, the merging of abstraction and narrative, and the calligraphic brushwork exposing the materiality of the paint? Aside from the fantasy of ascribing fanciful titles such as: “Her blue ball bounced as they closed their eyes...” to Cicero, the memorization technique is relevant because it points to the unique relationship between architecture and memory. deVin’s paintings are condensed memories of the family home where she grew up. The painted canvas is reconstructed as explicit memory, an actualization of the method of loci. These painted spaces, the depicted corners and rooms, are over-abundant with recollection. The rooms themselves are planes of colour coming together into impossible dream-space angles. The artist’s various experiences are represented through unmodulated brush strokes. The energy of her hand’s motion is transcribed into painterly space: ribbons/rainbows/lightning bolts of materialized colour are the calligraphy of the artist’s retrieval.
The childhood home imprints upon the developing psyche. According to Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space, the structure of a dwelling is influential in the structure of the developing consciousness. Cicero’s technique is effective because there is an essential connection between the architecture where the self is developed, and the developing-self; there is a vital connection between being and dwelling. Shelter is the natural abode of the imagination, according to Bachelard . A home is able to manifest concretions of the poetic imagination, it is the natural habitat of daydream, and therefore an alternative time-space. This assertion is true in the instance of Aiden deVin, who has turned her memories into an elusive yet impactful interior of the remembered past; airy, yet temporally compressed into the painter’s canvas which always exists in the present; containing all the frivolity, heartache, nuisance and joy of the memory of a developing-self.
- Michelle Weinstein
Bachelard, Gaston transl. by Maria Jolas . Poetics of Space . The Orion Press, 1964, pgs 3-73