From Stefan Orlowski

31.03.2014 - 30.06.2014

Trélex - An Odyssey

It was Anthony Burgess who said that 'to be left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world.' Indeed this may be true but for what reason? Solitude can be a wonderful experience in order to listen to your senses, to simply allow oneself the time to process ones thoughts.

Essentially 'an ivory tower is fine as long as the door is open'. That is how I will best remember my experience in my three month stay with Nina and her family in Trelex.

I remember waking to the tolling of the town bell, looking out of the small aperture window in the southerly direction towards the vastness of the French Alps. This is the first thing to adjust to: the magnificence of the location. To the other side of the property lies the rolling Terre verte quietude of the Jura foothills, which, in the early mornings are often to be found shrouded beneath a lingering diaphanous fog. This fog, and the mountains it obscures would be where I spent many of my days and evenings. The Jura can be accessed by foot from the residence, simply walking out towards the town of Gingin and following the winding roads that lead to the logging routes. As you make your way up the steep promontory, eventually piercing through the wet canopy of cloud, magnificent views await across the entirety of the Vaud Valley and beyond.

Evening Mist in the Jura, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on linen, 2014 by Stefan Orlowski
Evening Mist in the Jura, 30 x 40 cm, Oil on linen, 2014

However, in order to attain the full panorama, it is necessary to ascend La Dole. This summit lies just behind the imposing view from the studio window. The incongruous white dome which marks the summit of this peak can be seen from the studio, but belies the spectacle that awaits if one takes the short drive to the summit car park. I remember a particularly disquieting experience up on the summit of La Dole very early one morning. The fog was again loitering among the undulations and hills that ascend towards the summit. Though strangely at this altitude approaching 5000ft there was no trace of wind. At the summit the scale of the dome impressed upon me sublimely, and yet what hypnotized me further still was the absolute quiet, the lack of any discernible movement of a single blade of grass as the fog kissed the earth around me. I felt contained like a small specimen within a bell jar. I felt reduced, infinitesimal and yet completely at ease.

A painting from just below the summit of La Dole, 'Crucible' by Stefan Orlowski
A painting from just below the summit of La Dole: 'Crucible'

All of this was for me a perfect setting to explore a new found interest in Landscape painting. Together with Linda and subsequently Zahra and Denise – all fellow residents during my stay – I would enjoy walking the local country in search of whatever I was looking for.

The Walk from St Cergue to La Dole by Stefan Orlowski
The Walk from St Cergue to La Dole

The residency is a wonderful blend of open discourse and working privacy. Nina is willing to offer critical advice and technical knowledge when called upon and there always seemed to be a free flowing exchange of thoughts and feelings about painting regardless of style or subject matter. Painting was always open for discussion with Nina and Linda, and I found that to be a particularly nurturing environment. New residents are asked to give a small presentation of their influences and past work. Like many artists I find presentations daunting but rather than being in any way difficult or awkward I found it to be relaxed, informal and beneficial to the open environment of the studio.The studio itself I found to be well set out with a huge amount of space to lay out large expansive projects if necessary. The two large 16ft movable walls are particularly ingenious in so far as they allow residents to altar the layout of the studio to suit specific needs: whether it be the curating of an exhibition, the accommodation of an installation or anything else for that matter. The views across the garden from the rear of the studio, where residents are usually to be found, are beautiful. The atmosphere across the Jura, which can be seen from the window, is very rarely the same and always something to behold. In its quiet magnificence I found it more stirring than the more dramatically kitsch views of the French Alps in the other direction.

In terms of materials and equipment, Nina's generosity in this area cannot be overstated. The studio is a veritable Aladdin's Cave. If you are missing something from the tool box, rest assured Nina will have just the thing for you. This usage of materials goes within reason of course. There is an art supplies shop in both Nyon and Geneva to pick up gear as and when. Although remote in its setting, Trelex is placed equidistantly between Geneva and the series of towns and Villages that run along Lac Leman. For galleries and art collections Lausanne provides a real wealth and diversity of Contemporary Art as much as the lesser known but equally vital works to be found in the revelatory Collection de L'Art Brut.

Being a resident for three months the initial few weeks passed slowly and in keeping with the steady drifting fog beyond my studio window. There were periods where I felt as if I had fallen out of time, as time itself really had little relative meaning in my day to day working process. This really is a terrific feeling of boundless possibilities, whereby I felt emboldened and justified in allowing myself to accept mystery.

I feel privileged to have been a part of the Trelex residency programme. My work has grown and gone in directions I never imagined before my arrival. It is a rare thing to meet an individual such as Nina who believes so passionately in the open and free education and collaboration between arts practitioners and writers at all stages of their careers. It is philanthropy of the highest order and I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to Nina and her family for their generosity and pure good will.