From Anna Ferdenzi

20 Nov - 20 Dec 2019

I arrived in Trélex on the 20th of November. 

30 days to focus completely on my art work, the very thought was something of a dream for me. 

Back in 2012-2014 I had taken part in Crimson Boner’s ABC (Artist book Collaboration). Each artist made a book with a theme and posted their book to another artist, my theme was ‘Juxtaposition’, and the person I would send my book to and all subsequent books, was Nina Rodin, founder of the Trélex Residency. Seven years on I had finally managed to make it to the residency. 

On my arrival, I was greeted by Julio, Nina’s husband’s assistant and the families gorgeous Great Dane dog. Julio showed me to the studio space at the top of the house and the lovely room where I would be spending my residency. Apparently I would be sharing the space with one other artist, Mariana, a painter from Portugal. Mariana was in Berlin, as was Nina until Friday, which gave me a couple of days alone in the house. 

A movable white wall divided Mariana’s and my working space. I walked around to her side, I wanted to have a look at her set up. The space was filled with abstract shapes painted on canvas, brushes and earthy coloured pigments. I was looking forward to meeting her and discussing her work. An appealing part of this residency/social experiment, was to speak with other like minded artists. To talk about our process, share our work and experiences. I made myself a cup of tea and took a moment to take in my surroundings. Alone, upstairs in the attic of this very grand home with views of the Jura Mountains from almost every window, away from the distractions and responsibilities of living in the ‘real world’. Silence. 

Mariana arrived back on Friday, we made our introductions and that evening shared a meal and a glass of wine. It was nice to have a chat and get some insight into her work. Mariana had excellent English considering it wasn’t her first language, but she made me laugh because when I offered her a glass of wine her response was, “I accept”, this became somewhat of a joke between us, a great response to an offering, far better than, “that’s nice, thanks”, much more direct. I’m going to start using it myself, “I accept”! 

The dynamic of the working space obviously changes when a new artist arrives. Mindful, we gave each other space and naturally settled into a new routine. I wake early so tried to be respectful that I wasn’t making any noise before 9am. Behind the dividing wall, I could hear her work and she could hear me, the sound of us both working separately was amplified by the silence. We had some lovely chats around mealtimes, mainly about food and life, I’m half Italian, so food always comes into the conversation, it was nice to have company. Of course we spoke also about art. Andy Warhol said, “It is futile to verbalise art”, this quote resonates with me. The very reason I love creating art, is because it is non verbal. Why should you have to verbalise a non verbal process? Of course I understand that if a piece of art impacts you, your going to react. If you have someone with you, you’ll most likely talk about that piece of art. I’m not talking about that type of verbalising; I’m talking about the rhetoric that many art critics come out with when their analysing a work of art. This is ‘their’interpretation, not mine, nor yours. Art is subjective, each person’s interpretation is different. The art world, like many establishments, can be so patronising, so elitist, born from a place of privilege. It’s enough to put you off, it put me off. That’s what’s so great about being at the residency, there really is no judgement. 

I have always struggled to define what type of 'artist' I am. I would consider my art to be multi-faceted, using various styles and techniques. I studied graphic design and majored in illustration, my current work, the style I go for, is something in between. I don’t like labels, but am aware that I have to call myself something, I’m a graphic artist, that’s what I am…for now. I hadn’t selected a project to develop before I arrived, instead I wanted to see how I would feel when I started working in this new space. I did however have two dominant themes. The first was a silent story, a narrative based around a central character, for this theme I was experimenting with pencil. The second was, ‘the female form and sexual representation’. I made a start on both. Bit by bit and without any pressure it became clear that I felt more compelled to work uninhibited, with movement, flow and gesture, without the detail that pencil often lends itself to. So my decision was made, the pencil project, for the time being would have to be parked. The power of the female form prevailed and the empty white wall started to fill. 

Notebooks really help me; I always keep a notebook. Generally, it may be just a word, heading or phrase that can spark an interest. From this starting point I can develop my theme, sketch out some ideas. I took a lot of pleasure in the the experimental process, folding, cutting, tearing, line work, not really knowing where it would lead, but it all started to naturally unfold. I took photos of each stage of development and made little GIFs bringing my still images to life and giving me a bit of a laugh in the process. This movement added another dimension to my work. I made paper sculptures and scaled up my existing work. I wanted to paint and experiment with print, but didn’t, so like a 4 year old I used big chunky oil crayons and neon markers, I love neon. I would continue experimenting once I got home. 

I worked and walked every day discovering the many trails and beautiful scenery that this part of Switzerland has to offer. I really enjoyed the convenience of the little train, only about 300 metres from the house, the train takes about 7 minutes from Trélex to Nyon. I went to the flea market in Nyon, the last Sunday of every month, fabulous. The market was full of local treasures, little stalls lined up and down Lake Geneva, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and lots of Swiss army knives. I live in Ireland (the other half of me is Irish), but was brought up in South London and thought about all the markets and car boot sales I used to religiously go to in my teens. Camden, Portobello road, Spitalfield, Abbey Mills. I love markets, the smells, the sounds, the people. I treated myself to a beer and some pizza, heaven! 

Nyon has a lot to offer, I took lots of photos and sat in the Italian inspired gardens eating my lunch in the winter sunshine. I reflected on the manicured environment I was in, a very different place indeed to what I am used to, to what most people are used to. I visited the Roman Museum, one ticket allows entry to the Castle close by, as well as the Lake Geneva Museum, so very good value. For food supplies I took the little train again into Nyon, a couple of times a week to get shopping at Coop and Migros, Coop being cheaper and with very reasonably priced wine. 

One of the highlights for me was visiting the Collection de l’Art Brut, in Lausanne, an amazing permanent exhibition of art, drawings, paintings, sculptures, embroidery, created by people who were interned in psychiatric hospitals, prisons and institutions. I spent a couple of hours taking it all in. Reading the little bio’s and explanations of how the work came to be. From Nyon, I took a short train journey to Geneva to visit the International Red Cross Museum, which was very moving. A bonus was the extensive Poster Exhibition they had on show. Whilst in Geneva I also discovered that there was a small exhibition of Rodolphe Töpffer work. Rodolphe Töpffer was considered the father of the comic strip. My final year thesis was called, ‘The Universal Language of Comics’, and included examples of his work, so I was quite excited to see the original drawings. I love his line work and the exaggerated gesture used in his characters, in particular Monsieur Jabot, the humour and simplicity have always appealed to me. After the exhibition I walked through the lovely Christmas market and sat with a large cup of mulled hot wine, which perfectly completed my day out. 

It’s quite unusual for most of us past our 20s, to take 30 days off from ‘the real world stuff’ and dedicate it to our passions, whether that be a road trip, holiday with friends or family, exercise, or an artist residency. If you’re a parent, a single parent, a carer, or struggling internally, you rarely put yourself first. There’s little time, money or motivation to focus on your ‘art’, catch up with loved ones or arrange a day out with friends. But sometimes a little window opens just enough for an opportunity to present itself. Being in Trélex was my opportunity. Being almost forced to be so ‘present’ made me examine myself as an individual, as an artist and helped me understand what drives me and makes me feel fulfilled. The residency highlighted the benefits of spending time alone, but also the importance of being part of something bigger than yourself, working with others to make a difference, whatever that may be. 

In the final days I looked through all the work I had produced and reflected on my experiences. The experience of the residency has been a really positive one and has added a new dimension to my work. I had created a large body of work, which I was excited to develop and hope to keep up the momentum when I returned home. 

I really would like to thank Nina again and her family for giving me the space and time to grow. I value their hospitality and generosity, sharing their home is a very noble act! Thank you so much for a wonderful opportunity. 


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