After arriving on a dark and rainy Saturday evening, I awoke the next morning to a beautiful view of the snow-covered Jura Mountains. Over the course of my residency, the view of both the Jura Mountains and the Alps, as well as the intensity of the changing colours and light would have a profound effect on my work.
What I liked most about the residency was its unique location; Trelex feels both remote and well connected to the many cities around Lake Geneva. It was possible to withdraw into nature and or stay in the studio for days, or to venture out and enjoy the many museums in Geneva or Lausanne. This allowed a freedom and spontaneity to my stay, and depending on the weather or my urge for adventure, I spent every week differently.
The Trelex Residency was my first residency, and with a painting practice that is mainly studio based, I spent as much time as possible making work and using the great facilities in the studio. Every morning I felt excited to be able to create freely, with no other commitments to think about, no deadlines, no expectations, and often found it hard to stop in the evenings. After a first week of settling in and letting the new environment sink in, I quickly started to stray from my initial plan of exclusively working on small pieces of paper (dictated by what I could squeeze into my suitcase!), instead spreading out into the large studio space. I experimented with paper folding, creating more three-dimensional pieces, which was an exciting new development in my work. Nina generously provided me with many materials such as offcut bits of paper, cardboard and canvas, which in turn inspired new avenues of exploration.
Nina was very supportive and happy to offer technical advice as well as critical feedback on the work. Like many artists, I find talking about my work hard, but Nina asked me to discuss my work in the context of ten things that inspire me, which was a really helpful exercise in trying to formulate recurring themes and influences. I was fortunate enough to share my time with Sarah-Knill Jones (who was collaborating with Nina on a painting performance) and Stefan Orlowski, both painters, who I enjoyed many memorable conversations as well as day-trips with. The atmosphere in the studio was usually very focussed and quietly productive. I learned a lot from working alongside Nina, Sarah and Stefan who all pursue their individual, and very different painting practices with passion and sincerity.
My work draws on the experience of landscape, so I also spent a lot of time exploring. From the house, there are many beautiful walks in the nearby forest or mountains to be taken. They can be reached by foot or by taking the little train which connects Trelex with the other villages in the mountains, such as St.Cergue, from where you can hike up to La Dole.
Nearby Nyon is quiet with many picturesque old houses and a small castle with a beautiful view across the lake; Geneva is only another ten minutes away. I spent many afternoons there walking around the free (and always deserted) Museum of Art and History with its adjacent Museum of Graphic Arts, as well as Mamco , with its changing contemporary art and photography exhibitions. Geneva can seem affluent and polished at first, but head for the artier district Quartier de Bains and you will find many galleries and cafes, which offer an insight into Geneva’s creative life. My favourite spot was café Remor from which you can soak up the sun and enjoy a view of the surrounding mountains. For other day trips I recommend visiting the Art Brut Museum in Lausanne, the vine-yards near Vevey, and Montreux, from where you can take a small cable car up to the Rochers-de-Naye in the Alps. Stefan and I also went on a little road trip over the border to France to explore deserted villages and the many haunting war memorials around Pontarlier or Jougne.
Over the weeks I began to find clarity in my ideas and the body of work I was producing to be more refined and confident. Six weeks was a good amount of time to test and refine ideas and allowed me to experiment in ways I would not have done otherwise. In my last week, I cleared the studio space and put together an exhibition, selecting pieces I was most content with and testing different arrangements. I was surprised to see so many people (local artists, villagers, and friends) attend the informal evening opening. The feedback I received still echoes with me now, giving me plenty to think about now that I am back in my studio in London.
I feel that my time in Trelex has significantly changed my focus and has made me feel more confident about what I am doing and what I aim for as an artist. I feel incredibly fortunate to have come across the Trelex Residency by chance, and want to thank Nina and her family for their hospitality and kindness and for starting such a rare and unique project that will hopefully inspire others to follow.