Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

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!

From Jess Raby

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.

From Sophia Moseley

01 Dec - 22 Dec 2016

Switzerland for me was a perfect time to reflect and research. As every residency turns out I end up producing something I don't plan to. On the second evening there the church bells had been chiming for the past half an hour. I felt a sense of overwhelming joy for being in a beautiful landscape, with good food, good people and good weather. 

I spent the evening staring out of the window at the twinkling glow from the house opposite and typing a short story I had been waiting to write for a while. In the morning I heard the occasional moo from a cow and Talisker, Nina's tiny dog barking outside. 

During my three week residency, I spent most of my days writing and educating myself on David Lynch. I didn't expect this at all as I had planned on working solely on a commission I had back at home in England. The creative environment took hold. The first time I met Frank, the other artist, a musician from France, we spoke of small and creepy suburban towns. Of which both of us were originally from. This sparked a mention of Twin Peaks. As I primarily write based on human observation within certain environments, this was a perfect piece of research for me. I became enthralled by his work and when I wasn't writing, I was watching Blue Velvet or Mulholland Dr. 

On some days I would take the tiny train into Nyon, and wander around the lake and small streets making up ideas about the people who lived there. I saw one old lady in her house making something delicious I'm sure and another in her sewing shop, knitting by lamplight. It all looked very idyllic and cosy. The lake is the cleanest body of water I've seen in my life. One day I took the train in the wrong direction and ended up somewhere further into the countryside. I didn't mind though, as I saw horses right next to the station and a hawk in the opposite field. The church and small village it was in was something you can only imagine in fairy tales.  

Being in such an idyllic environment and in a lovely house made me dream more than usual. Dreaming makes an influence on my writing so I was glad of it. The best dream I had went like this - I don't know where I was, but I felt like it was Africa. I was cycling along on my bike and there were many other people doing the same around me in all directions. But it was very calm and the sun was setting, spreading an orange glow over everything. The road was only dirt, and there were many trees, plants and fields. I definitely was nowhere near a city. I felt very at ease and like I belonged and I was myself. I cycled to somewhere that felt very safe and colonial, like it was a university of some kind. Like Oxford, or Cambridge or Yale. Somewhere prestigious. I parked my bike and walked through a café to meet my friends. The inside was like an old school room, the floor and walls were panels of dark wood, and it was dark, but not gloomy. It was cosy, and the air felt warm outside, so it must have been a warm country. Then the dream changed and I was outside walking further into the complex. There was a club where two girls I used to go to school with were. They had invited me there and were dressed up in rainbow coloured wigs. Like the Garry Glitter one my Dad used to have. Strips of shimmering plastic. I didn't want to go in because, I hate clubbing and it looked really lame. I didn't like those girls anyway, they weren't very interesting, and I would have to fain interest like in real life sometimes. Then a group of fat ignorant men rolled out singing and generally being heinous. I don't know whether this was part of the real dream or a daydream when I woke up. The real dream, was the best though and I woke up feeling at ease and the happiest I have felt in a long while. The feeling of being where you are meant to be and being able to be yourself at every moment of every day, is pure luxury. 

Later on that afternoon, the sun burst through the clouds and all of the frost perching on the cluster of pine trees started to melt off as if a rain shower has just passed over us, but only from the cluster of trees. It was ‘magical’ as my Grandma would say. It stayed this way for at least half an hour or more. The branches drooping further and further towards the ground. Frank – who rarely emerged from his room – dashed out in a flurry to photograph the spectacle. The sun was shining so brightly directly through my window, I couldn't stare for long. 

Trélex Switzerland was a perfect induction back into studio life and thinking like an artist for every minute of the day, instead of being hauled up in a mindless job. So I couldn't recommend this residency enough to anyone who is considering it.

Sophia Moseley

From Henry Byrne

01 Nov - 30 Nov 2016

I was booked to stay in Trelex for the month of November. Prier to my residency I had been working towards commissioned portraits and (primarily) ‘selling’ exhibitions. So I was looking forward to some headspace and time to try out my newer ideas by testing old ones. 

Trelex is a beautiful place set 3 miles north of Lac Lamen. The village is perched north of the roman town of Nyon in which a major highway passes connecting Geneva with the rest of Switzerland. The program is situated in a beautiful House with a large garden and Nina’s wonderful family. The studio is on the top floor of the three story house. From there looking north the forests rises to the foothills of the Alpes. It’s very quite in the house and  the village is very still. I had been anxious about the lack of activity and distraction However I found that the still ness enabled my to hear my ideas clearer and for the better ones to be louder. 

I drove from London which was great to have a car there tho Nina offers her car to residence to get around. It enabled more flexibility as I enjoyed going of in to the mountain for hours. I'd split the month up as follows; The first two weeks working on the portraits brought from the UK and the final two weeks working towards a show. Having no distractions enabled my productivity shot up. I painted so quickly and confidently. The big difference compared to my studio in the uk was from 6 pm onwards (this is the time I normally stop painting in London). In Trelex there are no social requirements/options so I continued to paint getting immersed in the work. It reminded me of when I was younger, when I first discovered art and how it relived me from the cronic ‘boredom’ of feeling unfulfilled. Portrait commissions can some times feel methodical the repetitive. The lack of distraction focused the mind and brought back fun and excitement of creating things. 

After completing my allotted paintings I begun playing with my light boxes (out side of portraits I create light boxes that mimic the atmospheres of significant areas) I wanted to make a piece of work that was sight specific. I had hoped/ expected mist over the lake and valley but it never fully transpired. The nights were drawing in quickly and the sun sets where getting slower and slower. Rich colours oranges and violets would transform the landscape highlighted by the residual mist of the lake. This was cemented on a train back from Nyon to Trelex at 5.15pm just as the sun was setting. The sky was violet and pink but there was a thin strip of yellow between the sky and the foothills.  As the train moved up the mountain I saw dog walkers standing still looking at the sun setting. Looking away from the view I noticed on the train all the Swiss staring at the sun set. I thought they must have seen it a thousand times but were still struck by it. In tern I was struck by there similar expression of carm and wonder. They were united in there expression and as a group. I wanted to show the thing that provoked this communal wonder. I then new what I wanted to make my work around this. 


Using a LED strip light I started to rap pre bought coloured filters. I started combining different filters to tailor the different colours of the horizon. I wanted to make the strip of light that was so stunning between the clouds and the hills.

In the studios there are dividing walls. I thought it would be fun to use them as a light box to recreate the horizon. I experimented with a cardboard box getting the shape and colours right.  I took one of the panel off the dividing wall and set up the light inside. I did not want the source of the light to be seen and this would conseal the strip light. 

I then traced and cut the skyline into the board and screwed it back to the wall. Paper would be put over the cut horizon, to allow the light to be defused. The work was realised when Nina thought the reflection in the mirrow would mimic the sky line. This in my opinion became the work. The reflected strip of light in the glass mimicking the mountains it was inspired by. 

I cannot recommend the residency enough. Nina’s inputs was so useful It really reminded me that there are no rules and anything is possible it art. As the residency is run by artists for artists it realises the importance of time and personal development. Thank you very much for the most enlightening experience. 

Henry Byrne website

From Alfonsus Wong

30.08.2016 - 29.09.2016

The residency wasn’t what I expected. I arrived hoping to get work done, and possibly spend time re-evaluating my art practice. Both things happened, but very differently from what I imagined. 

If I were to sum it up, work gets done. The studio really has a variety of media ready for experimentation, paints, pastels, pencils, literally every tool you need for bookbinding. There is crazy variety of materials, just not variety in said materials, you won’t find every colour you need for example, but what is there is definitely more than sufficient for play. DO ask Nina if you'd like to know if the studio has a specific tool you need, odds are, it should.

What I didn’t quite expect was that the greatest takeaways for me came from the small things - chats over tea, a passing comment from guests, or even simple advice before the flight home. 

I think that while the forests and mountains, the museums will very easily, in some way impact or influence work or the work process within the residency, the Trelex Residency isn’t defined solely by that. It really is everything, the neighbouring town, the garden, Nina and family (her children if you manage to get to know them, but do set boundaries or you won’t get any work done!), Talisker (the over-affectionate dog). It is all of those, not really a gestalt of an experience, everything feels separate, yet intimate.

Follow Alfonsus online

'Note from Nina: there is indeed a small accumulation of materials but please always check with me before coming as things get used up, things don't always work... Etc. And sow times new materials appear that haven't been mentioned on the website. But yet, I always hope you will play towards new ideas'

From Jaime Valtierra

24.08.2016 - 25.09.2016

"Compounding, Transporting, Augmenting, Diminishing..."

At the time I write this text I have been in London for a week after leaving Trelex. I have already met and talk with many friends and colleges here and of course they all ask me the same question: How was it in Switzerland? My answer: Amazing!! And it was. 

So ok…how was it apart from amazing? Well, it was very much about a journey, one that originated there and developed as I got to know more about the place and its history. Knowing I had a month ahead to work and no pressure to deliver in accordance to some external program, I decided (contrary to the way I would normally go about these kind of projects) to build up a body of work without prior research or planning and purely based on my actual experience of Trelex. Of course I had some loose ideas of what I would like to do before arrival but I kept the processes open and in flux.

Studio View

In the first stages of my stay, I mostly drew from memory on small scale and went for walks to the nearby forest (which in fact totally covers the mountain range next to the house). The more I went there the clearer my ideas got, so naturally I went as often as I could! The landscape is truly stunning, a maze of trees and paths that lead into more silence; a place to get lost, but also a labyrinth with a vertical dimension. It was this actual ascension to the mountaintop that led me to the idea of an imaginary journey as a frame for the project I wanted to develop during the residency.

From then on I worked towards a number of more ambitious pieces including a performance/video piece and an installation. The second work, which arguably became the most successful piece of the project, consisted of two large pastel drawings attached to a timber structure. It was fortunate that when the idea of the large drawings came into vision, Nina mentioned some paper leftovers from a bookmaking project that were available for residents. It turned out the paper was of excellent quality!!. To prepare the large paper surface I needed for the works I only had to join a number of these sheets together, the final result was as good as it could get.

Everyone is their own cave
Pastel on paper. 200 x 160 cm. 2016

Amongst the many books on contemporary art, art criticism and philosophy available in my room in Trelex, I also found a little one about the history of the town. On closer inspection, I discovered a brief history of the house and the happy revelation that the place originally belonged to a Genevoise composer by the name of Jean Binet and his wife, a tapestry artist. It was, however, a very different topic that called my attention from the book, in this case, a photograph of the old Trelex train (that now modernised) takes you from Nyon to the town. 

When looking at the photo I remembered Nina showing us (as part of the customary ‘introduction tour’) the old Train Station House that now hides at the back of the house garden. This old wooden cabin has been part of other resident`s projects for installations or as a quiet creative corner. In my work, however, it took on a more ‘metaphysical’ role as I imagined the old Trelex train stopping once more for a ride into the mountain. This was indeed one of the ideas with greater resonance as the project grew and so it became central for the large drawing that constituted the main piece in the final installation piece. 

Compounding, Transporting, Augmenting or Diminishing,...
Pastel, charcoal and oil pastel on paper. 220 x 300 cm. 2016

The great majority of my time in the last two weeks at Trelex was dedicated to complete this large piece and the rest of the drawings and also to put a structure together that could hold them. At the very end, the complete installation was placed outdoors near the house and documented there. My intention behind it was to follow an early desire to place works in the landscape. This was originally a wider concept in the project and it involved taking a number of pieces deep into the forest.

Is there Free Will?.
Paper, pastel, charcoal, oil pastels, timber, clamps.
Dimensions variable. 2016

Unfortunately, no time was left for me to fully develop this idea or to work further on a performance piece in the forest that might have evolved in turn into a video piece. The research material I managed to put together for this work was, however, informative to the other pieces I produced. Moreover many of the ideas I gather from some of my reading material (originally intended to supplement this piece) were fundamental to the development of the large installation. Also, constituent to the whole project, although initially a marginal element, was my reading of Max Weber`s ‘Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Ethic’. Inspired by some of the theory in the book I develop a series of video sketches that could become part of a more complete piece on a different occasion, perhaps during another visit to Switzerland.

Video still. 2016

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