Villa Mona: a proper kind of house
By Marjolaine Ryley. With essays by Camilla Brown, Senior Curator, The Photographers' Gallery, London and Brigitte Ryley.
90pp Hardback 180x180mm; price at £15 plus post/packing £2.50. (ISBN 09550945-2-6)
"For Ryley as a child this family home in Belgium was experienced through difference. It stood in stark contrast to her life in the Britain where she grew up in squats and lived as part of transitory communities with her parents. She was to learn the rituals and routines of traditional family and domestic life in Villa Mona for the first time and they were both puzzling and alienating to her. This led to a fascination with Villa Mona, and perhaps a need to inscribe her place within it, which led to this body of work. She wanted to explore it further and her approach became more akin to an anthropologist examining social behaviour in a foreign land, except of course that this was her family". Camilla Brown
Marjolaine Ryley's photographs are intimate, psychologically charged portraits of domestic spaces, which explore how we experience family life through familiarity with particular places. 'Villa Mona' is the name of the home which a branch of the artist's family have had a long association with and which she visited as a child. Over the last eight years, Ryley has returned to the house repeatedly to create a cumulative portrait of both the building and its inhabitants. Each photograph quietly observes the traces of human presence – "the residues of past lives" – that have accrued there. The artist's approach is, as she remarks, "like that of an archaeologist, sifting, revealing and preserving layers" of previous lives. The images, accordingly, are filled with mementoes and personal possessions accrued over the twentieth century. The evocative, elegiac atmosphere which Ryley creates seems to make palpable the passing of time.