29 Aug - 20 Sept 2017
This summer I had the privilege to spend 3 weeks at the Trelex residency, an opportunity that literally fell into my lap when sitting on the tube in London in early July while thinking how great it would be to get out of this busy town and to focus on my writing. Voila! A few weeks later I was already on my way to Geneva airport. Going on a residency is always a funny thing because it feels a little bit like going on holiday but at the same time, it is not a holiday because you want to make sure you make the best out of having time and space to focus on your practice or in my case writing. (Self-imposed) Pressure to produce on residencies can be paralysing and thinking about Nieztsche and how much he got done during his visits to Sils Maria (Engadin, Switzerland) during the 1880s didn't really help me to decrease it. No comparison with Nietzsche and myself is intended in this statement. Anyway coming back to the residency in Trelex, it just offers a great environment to deal with this double-edged-sword of pressure and pleasure. While diving deeply into the theory and analysis of my practice, I also managed to dip my feet into the lovely lake Geneva and climb the hills right behind Trelex. All activities that are connected and beneficial to each other. The first time I went up to St. Cergue, I wasn't entirely sure about distance and how long it would take; like being on the residency, you don't know entirely what to expect when you walk a path for the first time. After 90-minutes of uphill walking, I heard some cowbells…and there they were, two of most content cows I have ever met. Having an entire meadow for themselves, enjoying what nature has to offer.
A potential analogy to the residency? Maybe… two artists having a huge amount of space and enjoying what nature has to offer?! The second time I went up the mountain (by bike, just for the record) … by the time I heard the cowbells I started feeling content as well, must be contagious. Content about so many things including my progress on writing, even though the number of words written at that point still remained low. What was important to me was the progress I made in the construction of ideas, themes, and connections; a process which requires a huge plain wall and an incredible number of different shaped post-its. A masterpiece in its own right. Realising at some point, that most of my neon-coloured post-its were purchased in a nearby town called Nyon, was just the cherry on the cake. No way to imagine what Nietzsche would have done had he had such a variety of post-its available. Again no comparison intended. Anyway, there were many highlights during my stay but I consider it pointless to put a number on experiences that are so high in value.
01 June - 17 Aug 2017
When I arrived to Trélex in early June, Nina’s youngest son quickly announced that there was an abundance of hedgehogs in the area. I commented that this was wonderful news as I would be thrilled to see my first wild hedgehog. Alexander immediately inquired about how long I would be staying, and when I told him I would be in Trélex until the end of August, he thoughtfully replied that there would be a high chance of a hedgehog sighting. Alexander then asked for a push on the rope swing hanging from the tall pines, and my residency at Trelex was off to a fresh start!
Nina’s family is a beautiful family, and while every member of this clan understands that artists have come to Trélex to work on projects, each family member also has a wonderful way of sharing their peculiar inquisitiveness, kindness, and generosity. Getting to know Nina’s family, Talisker included, is an incredible privilege of this residency.
Towns, villages, mountains, Mont Blanc, clouds, streams, Lac Léman, woods, forests, farm fields, and livestock mark the landscape, and I could not have wanted to experience anything more on my daily walks. It is a picturesque place, and it is a place where folks who aren’t living off the land are certainly living with the land. All these motifs were a perfect complement to my ever-developing painting and drawing practice—traces of childhood, animals, and the angelic made my time magic.
01 - 31 May 2017
I am in a house that I don’t think was built. It must have been planted.
Because just like the tree in front of me, it breathes and grows. Its roots search for pure life deep in the moist and fertile lands of Trélex.
This was my first experience of painting outside my own workshop. A beautiful old house in the green village of Trélex.
I am mulling over the sources of inspiration here.
It’s a unique experience to be both calm and creative!
How much I need both silence and effervescence!
In this European village, people are sparse and calm…
These days I want to paint insects and at times wild flowers.
And the sky is always a beautiful subject!
Later, I might also paint the creaking of the wooden stairs.
Yesterday, I felt lost among the six trashcans and the gum in my mouth. I had never thought in which one I had to throw my gum! I finally swallowed the gum and that was the best way to end the dilemma.
It is getting warm is Switzerland and it’s possible to go outside with summer clothes without any worries and stroll.
Sometimes I bike around this dream village and of course in search for people who come out of their houses for strolling or biking.
They say hello and pass. They are gentle and calm. But calm to what extent? To the extent that I think if I stay here for one year, people would fly away from my paintings and I’d become the painter of nature.
I know of a lot of painters here who only paint the wild flowers and the singing birds.
How cheerful the baby goats are and the bees make honey with love!
In the mornings, I wake up by the sound of birds and the breeze from the Alps. Sometimes, I feel like I’m dead and that I was so good that I have entered Heaven!
Now, I am preoccupied with the plan of going to the subway when I turn back to Tehran, going aimlessly from Tajrish to Rah-ahan or getting on the bus at 5 PM and watching all the city and all the people!
17 Mar - 01 Apr 2017
As it would appear with most of the artists who are fortunate enough to be able to spend some time at the Trelex residency, I arrived with an aim, a purpose, an artistic mission. Coming from a highly strung London life, and growing up in a generation where success is often defined by production, accomplishment, and efficiency, my mind was pre-conditioned to set a goal and achieve it, which would validate the time spent at the residency. However, after my time at Trelex, I've decided, to sum up how beneficial the residency was to myself in five different but interconnected ways:
To run your day to your own time, to your own schedule, even for a fixed period, is such a blessing. To have the extra time to think, create, reflect. The luxury of choosing how you spend your time, what you do, and when you do it is invaluable. Equally as important are the moments when you stop - and time flows with no significant and defining event, no conscious awareness and no pressure.
The result of having limited time in one's "normal life" is that the opportunity for play, being creative and exploring becomes an activity perceived as a guilty pleasure - but which is clearly an integral part of the artistic process, and should not be downplayed. On my third day, Nina took myself and the other artists, Sophia Starling and Ewa Wesolowska, through the process of book binding - both a luxuriously time consuming and precise art form. The tutorial resulted in hours spent afterwards investigating the properties of paper, the potential for a different display of and engagement with an object of art and a new line of direction for my work.
With the extra time to play, the curiosity of exploring around the studio grew, and this is testament to Nina's generous nature, both in her advice and her willingness to help others. There are supplies in the studio which are available to the artists, for experimentation. Using the supplies is like borrowing from the traces of past artists, their tools, their experiences. Also being never having been to that part of Switzerland, exploring the surrounds, Geneva and Lausanne was akin to a cultural escape.
Talking with Nina - fruitful, engaging, supportive
Talking with other studio artists - relaxing, intermittent, diverse
Talking with Nina's children - humorous, entertaining, impressive
Talking with Swiss people - challenging with limited French skills
Talking with Talisker - at à place!
As with the mindfulness craze sweeping the globe, it was an inevitable and necessary outcome of the solitude and disconnectedness of Trelex - to be content and settled to just "be", whether it be on walks, sitting in the sunshine, at your studio desk - the silence and retreat which Trelex offers also shines the light on what is going on internally, not just externally.
All in all, I was only at Trelex for two weeks, and look forward to spending more time there in the future. To say that it was a wonderful retreat is to state the obvious - to say that it was an enriching experience, both as an artist and human being, is an understatement. Nina is incredibly genuine and supportive, both as a person and in what she is providing through the residency itself, and much thanks should go to Abi Box who organises the roster of artists. Thank you for the amazing time!
23 Jan - 04 Feb 2017
I arrived at the airport a little anxious but very excited. In Geneva, I was greeted by Nina. She drove me straight to the house from there. On the journey I was happy to see snow. When we got to the village I was shown around the house and garden and introduced to Nina’s family. I was already looking at what could take part in my next projects.
|Testing out projections in the studio. Dead Rose, digital video|
The house is just beautiful. I enjoyed the garden swing sometimes too! The bedrooms are warm and cosy, lots of books which are there for you to read. I loved the studio space, particularly the moveable walls which were key for me as I was able to make a darkened space to film in when blocking out light from the window too.
|Filming a rose I found in the village|
I started my first day getting to know my bearings and discover things, come up with ideas. The rest of my time on the residency I spent a lot of time playing and experimenting in the studio. I found the time extremely valuable as when the residency finished I felt I had developed my working process and approaches and returned home with clear plans as to what I was going to do in my next two upcoming University exhibitions.
|Filming snow as the sun set|
As I came to Trelex on a cancellation I could only come for two weeks but I hope to come back for a longer period of time in the future.
There are lots of materials and items Nina is happy to share with you. I benefited from a lighting set-up, fishing wire, tape, paper, glue and more.
When I needed a break from the studio I enjoyed trips out to Nyon, Lausanne, and Geneva. I found the train easy to get. You just buy your ticket form the station in Trelex and head to Nyon for directions to the larger cities or you can catch the train up the mountains for gorgeous views and picturesque villages.
|A gorgeous sunny day in Lausanne. Well worth the trip.|
I didn’t come with a plan for this residency, I wanted to open up and let go and enjoy the luxury of having a studio space and no other commitments for a full two weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from this. I am so grateful to Nina for offering the experience.
I collected objects from my surroundings and experimented with them in the studio. I was glad to find one of few living flowers in the village. Other objects I collected included dead flowers, seeds, a dead wasp, and feathers.
|Filming feather, shadow and fan|
I loved having the luxury of having time to read a few books that had been on my list for a while. I enjoyed conversations with the other artists I met whilst at Trelex and Nina, talking about my work and artist influences. All in all, what a lovely experience. Time to think, read, make, and review. Perfect!
You can view more images of my time on the residency here.
I also made a few videos of my walks around Trelex and in Nyon on my first few days which you can view here.