It's very quiet here

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The Trelex Residency

IT’S VERY QUIET HERE A volume of footnotes for an exhibition on visual silence

Nina Rodin

at Gowen Contemporary July 2014





1. On Visual Silence ‘It’s very quiet here’ is a phrase I often hear when resident artists arrive in Trelex. Sounds are not necessarily quieter church bells and cow bells are very loud - but from the high windows of the large studio, one observes very little change or movement. In the distance, nothing ever seems to change much yet one then becomes attuned to the most subtle changes. Perhaps, the stillness is also more overwhelming because it is a new experience for many residents, different from the daily background din. Over 40 artists have worked in the studio since 2012, for periods ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months. Many threads have emerged but an early connection was made between the artists Min Kim, Kezia Pritchard, Kristofer Henrikson, Nicholas John Jones and Yoonjung Kim even though they did not all overlap



in Trelex. The unobtrusive stillness in their work and the meditative quality of their practice made me aware of the concept of visual silence, a quality I have since explored in my own practice and sought out in that of others. This curious little collection installed on a long custom-built shelf in the carpeted underground vault of Gowen Contemporary explores the theme of visual silence through reflective surfaces, darkness, mist, forgetting, erasures, deletions, absences, meditation, the absurd and the void. Like the quietists, heretics accused of elevating contemplation over meditation and intellectual stillness over vocal prayer, the artists here have developed work that is more about looking inward and about process than about an assertive grandeur, symmetry or perfection. As such, there is a link with the Zen Buddhist notion of Wabi Sabi, the art of impermanence, humility and imperfection that recognises the precariousness of all things in life eventually returning to dust and yet leaving us beautiful tracks to contemplate on the way. At best these subtle processes become sublime.

I like to think of visual silence as quietude - a quiet attitude, a deliberate position that confers a certain authenticity to artists who accept the possibility of going unnoticed.


Kezia Pritchard, The bell I heard but never saw, 2013, graphite on paper, 90 x 63 cm


2. By repeatedly adding and polishing layers of graphite on paper, Kezia Pritchard builds up a fragile solidity to this bell that we see but will never hear. Like the rest of Kezia’s work, it invites us to consider the loss of and nostalgia for things past, of memories that remain just outside our grasp, these things we can neither remember nor quite forget. One senses their presence but fails to conjure up the image and the sound, the smell and the taste. We are left instead with the anxiety of an impenetrable surface, resolutely flat in which at best a fuzzy shadowy image of ourselves is reflected.


Hyeisoo Kim, Trelex, 2013, archival pigment print, 20 x 25cm


3. On a night of very heavy mist between the Leman lake and the Jura mountains, Hyeisoo Kim shone a projector out of an open window in the studio of the Residency. She had in mind a work similar to others she has done before where the square light of the projector pulls a framed image out of a garden or a faรงade. Instead, the light was stopped by the thick mist and never quite reached the woods. On the floor below, my husband stood looking for the moon responsible for such strange light. This photo has come to encapsulate the surprising energy and productivity that has come out of this large attic and the sense of wonder that is spreading through the small village of Trelex and beyond. It has become a figurehead for the Residency, a lighthouse.


Yair Barak, Real Estate, 2008, archival pigment print, 42 x 29.7cm


4. Elsewhere altogether, Yair Barak shot Real Estate, a series of photographs of ocean front villas in Spring Lake, New Jersey. They were shot during winter time, left behind, closed, sealed and empty. So many unused voids, empty spaces. The memory of summer is so faint as to be almost sinister. The image is deliberately obscured by short exposure and the addition of a transparent black layer. The image is crisp and exact but the perspective is always distant as befits a photographer exploring the limits of his medium.


Yair Barak, Missing Mies, 2011, archival pigment print, 42 x 30 cm


5. The ambivalence betweeen a medium of reproduction that never lies and an uncertain emotional relationship is found again in a photograph from Yair Barak’s Missing Mies triptych. The starting point is an appropriated image from the 1950s by Jack E. Boucher from which the iconic house has been erased. The modernist certainty in permanence, perfection and symmetries is obliterated, leaving only the winter trees around the house, stark reminders of seasons that pass, a world continuously changing.


Estelle Thompson, Stellar, 2003-5, Oil on panel, 45.5 x 30.5 cm


6. Within the considerable body of Estelle Thompson’s work I am always drawn to those paintings that feature erasures, hints of hidden layers or those works that demand more time to reveal their colours and their geometry. Blink and you will miss the orange here. Sometimes residents are like ships in the dark. They pass through with hardly any physical trace. Yet conversations, the memory of artworks, books that came and left with them hang in the air. Thus a photographer and a painter who share an interest in modernist architecture but seem to have resigned themselves to something softer, more fragile. For both Estelle Thompson and Yair Barak, the absolute confidence of modernism is eroded into a more quiet contemplation of the limits of their practice.


Nicholas John Jones, Up-Lift (UK), 2011-12, Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 40.5 cm


7. Doubt is a central element in the work of Nicholas John Jones also. His practice is resolutely rooted in a very traditional abstract mode. But rather than representing a particular mood, the paintings evolve as long meditations in which the history of the canvas, the presence of other paintings or a fleeting intuition provoke successive alterations. As in some of Estelle Thompson’s painting, you have to look to the edge of the canvas for clues to the process behind the work: one of many layers hiding each other, an initial complexity erased, this time by addition rather than subtraction. Both painters have works that stay with them in the studio for years where layers are sucessively obscured, erased.


Linda Hemmersbach, Ein Morgen stieg ins Gestern hinauf, 2014, graphite, ink, acrylic, watercolour on paper, Japanese binding, 21 x 14.5 cm


8. Linda Hemmersbach is a practitioner of the Japanese dance method Butoh. This is a highly individualised style of performance which encompasses both a high level of skill and an improvised response to the outdoor setting in which this dance is often performed. Butoh resists definition and fixity of form but seeks instead a fluid mediation between the self and the environment to remain of the moment. Unlike most performance art, it needs no explicit relationship with an audience or happily subverts it. Within the art of dance it is the embodiment of visual silence as a performance that no one sees. Linda Hemmersbach’s emerging practice seeks similar ground within painting and is pursued in direct response to barely perceptible changes in her immediate environment.


Stefan Orlowski, Hazy, 2014, oil on aluminium, 30 x 40 cm


9. Stefan Orlowski pursues a much larger scale, energetic, immediate, assertive painting practice. However, his three month residency was an opportunity to explore mark making through small scale landscape paintings. Working for the first time on aluminium, a smooth, perfect surface that reflects ambient light through the paint depending on how it is held up to the light, erasure becomes a means of eradicating imperfection. The erasure is both a measure of avoidance and a desperately brutal moment. As a painter, I am fascinated by that moment between pain and fullfilment, the uncertain moment in the genesis of a work that leaves an uncertain landscape.


Linda Hemmersbach, Otherworld Interior, 2014, graphite, ink, acrylic, watercolour on paper, 18 x 18 x 10 cm


10. This fragile object that barely holds its own weight, came from a series of paper sculptures produced during a month of very disciplined, meditative work. The emphasis is again on thin washes to capture a fleeting atmospheric depth. But the sculpture glows from its hidden side. Some brushstrokes follow the folds, others are intersected by their lines. Linda Hemmersbach talked of W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, a tale of melancholy sadness tinged with intangible longing. In Zen philosophy, melancholy is never self-indulgent but a method of sharpening spiritual awareness, of accessing the world of here and now, undefined by language, just a pure experience of the moment.


Yair Barak, Vice Versa, 2008, archival pigment print, 20 x 32 cm and 21 x 35 cm


11. A diptych by Yair Barak which not only questions the ability of an image to encompass knowledge, but also the limits of our understanding. Here he is probing the grand statements, the certainty of western academic sciences which suddenly seem as flimsy as the thin discoloured paper they were published on. Blown up and framed - originally into much larger frames than here - the words actually seem more inconsequential.


Hyeisoo Kim, A collection of dedications, 2013, 1 minute video loop


12. A very simple movie continually looping through dozens of dedications from the frontispiece of books. Whether messages of love, thanks, friendship or respect, their emotional weight seems entirely cancelled out within this crowd. As in much of Kim’s work, intense moments of human existence are somehow reframed into something more insignificant, distant and unreachable. We are left feeling like detached spectators of a bizarre and disjointed play where expressions of attachment become completely mundane. Words blur into a heavy silence.


Hyeisoo Kim, Blank film reel and Blank slide film mount frame, 2014, screenprint on paper, 23 x 31 cm


13. These are the first screenprints to be made in Trelex. In delicate reproductions of image formats that were once reserved for the best highlights of a holiday, significant moments and milestones, rites of passage or famous landmarks, the image is missing. We are left with empty frames and perhaps a nostalgia for a time when we believed these formats would keep for posterity. Again, Hyeisoo Kim delicately unpicks human dramas into something more fragile, less permanent, invisible.


Yair Barak, Blank, 2008, archival pigment print, 48 x 22 cm


14. Another erasure, another blank. One more work that makes me feel as if two artists must have met before. They haven’t. Both Yair Barak and Hyeisoo Kim have photographed a blank lined paper, worked with book covers, dedications. Ships in the dark. Less said.


Estelle Thompson, Over Zero, 2009-13, oil on panel, 26 x 30 cm


15. From Estelle Thompson’s most recent series of work, a painting four years in the making whose surfaces betrays very little of the layers beneath. But look closely and at the right angle of incidence, the outlines of what will have been perfectly flat areas of colours arranged at well proportioned modernist right angles can just about be seen through the obliterating silver. The final surface is fragile and the dull silver reflects only vague light.


Nina Rodin, Punched and Painted, 2014, postcards, acrylic in handbound archival album, 27 x 20 x 4 cm


16. A series of 30 small works that came from the need to quiet the din of images of paintings past. Yet in this mock execution of masterpieces, new little paintings are born, through the touch of the brush on the digital reproduction. Again, hold the book at the right angle and contours emerge, the image is never far away.


Min Kim, Le Joujou du Pauvre, 2014, graphite on paper, 34 x 30 cm


17. ‘[...]Quand vous sortirez le matin avec l’intention décidée de flâner sur les grandes routes, remplissez vos poches de petites inventions d’un sol, - telles que le polichinelle plat mû par un seul fil, les forgerons qui battent l’enclume, le cavalier et son cheval dont la queue est un sifflet, - et le long des cabarets, au pied des arbres, faites-en hommage aux enfants inconnus et pauvres que vous rencontrerez. Vous verrez leurs yeux s’agrandir démesurément. D’abord ils n’oseront pas prendre; ils douteront de leur bonheur. Puis leurs mains agripperont vivement le cadeau, et ils s’enfuiront comme font les chats qui vont manger loin de vous le morceau que vous leur avez donné, ayant appris à se défier de l’homme. [...]’ - Baudelaire, Le Joujou du Pauvre, 1869 Titled after a poem in prose, this very delicate drawing may be a reminder to notice the small things around us and to treasure what others may not notice.


Nicholas John Jones, Let me through, 2012, oil on canvas, 24 x 33 cm


18. Nicholas John Jones’ work at times seems like a study of the building blocks of abstract painting. He keeps several canvases around him at any one time in the studio and the marks he adds to each are like a response to what he sees or wants to loose in each of them, a conversation between them or perhaps a monologue on the notion of painting as its own subject. This is not easily put into words, it is a very silent exchange. Sometimes I have wondered what his paintings would say if each sort of mark, each wiping out, each type of line, each superposition, each size of brush mark was codified into a silent morse code.


Nicholas John Jones, A soft glow (CH), 2013, photographic print, 12.8 x 18 cm


19. The photographs that Nicholas John Jones often shows alongside his canvases are not the starting point for his paintings. Instead they correspond rather to moments of recognition of painterly sensibilities, of something that might escape most other people and indeed many painters. Snowflakes or flickers of light on water in this context suddenly come alive as so many little brushstrokes but these photos are not tacked to the studio wall as inspiration for the next painting.


Nicholas John Jones, Effervesce (AUS), 2009, photographic print, 18 x 12.8 cm


20. On the one hand the photographs destabilise the raison d’être of his canvases because of the close visual relationship between the images. As such they ask another question that preoccupies many painters today: what voice for painting in the dense image culture of the internet and digital photography? On the other hand, when both are experienced in physical proximity to one another, the photographs enhance the sensual surfaces of the paintings, highlighting their layering and delicate craftsmanship and the slower timeframe in which they were made.


Nicholas John Jones, Stand Out, 2012, photographic print, 12.8 x 18 cm


21. And then there are the nights and the trees. As if obscurity can only find a voice in contrast to light with which the dark develops a depth more complex still than the trees.


Kezia Pritchard (in collaboration with Kristofer Henrikson), At night with you, 2013, flickbook in clambshell box, 11 x 4 x 5.5 cm


22. Bookmaking is a discipline that is developing at Trelex as an integral part of increasingly multifaceted artistic practices. Successive artists have fine-tuned different techniques that are passed on through their continued contact with the residency. Made at the same time as The Bell I heard but never saw, this little flickbook captures a flash of lightning briefly illuminating the garden at The Trelex Residency. Out of 90 frames of filmed footage, most are nothing but black pixels, meticulously printed at high resolution and assembled in the original order in a handmade flickbook. Books are visually very quiet objects that mostly admit one viewer at a time. And so one gets to hold a single flash of lightning, something otherwise quite beyond ourselves. Here again, Kezia Pritchard together with Kristofer Henriksson chase a concrete form for something so fleeting that we struggle to hold the image. Even frame by frame the memory escapes us.


Yair Barak, Foggy, 2013, archival pigment print, 25 x 39 cm


23. As in the flickbook, the trees mark the distance, create the space. This time through the cold mist, all the way out to the old station house, taken apart and reconstructed at the very end of the residency grounds, frost clinging to every blade of grass. The photograph comes back months later, framed, and mailed from Israel. But the old station house has been moved once more by a simple horizontal flip of the image.


Kristofer Henriksson, One raindrop, 2010, ebony, water and glue, 1 x 1 x 1 cm


24. A very finely and labouriously polished cube of ebony, a hollow within just large enough to hold a single raindrop caught from the sky. Only the tiniest imperfection betrays how the cube was cracked open. An object with the Wabi Sabi qualities: impermanence (the water will have evaporated long ago), humility, the evanescence of life, the perpetual movement of nature, delicate craft, serenity - and quietness.


Kristofer Henriksson, One year, 2013, wood, 1.5 x 0.5 x 1.5 cm


25. [...] Playing with Abandon I lose all track of time People passing by point and laugh asking, “What is the reason for such foolishness?” I respond only with a deep bow, For even if I answered, it would be beyond their understanding Look around, there is nothing more than this. - Ryōkan Taigu (Japanese monk 1758–1831) The ring is a single year’s growth of a large branch. Look closely and you can see that the 4 seasons have each left different coloured layers of fibres.


Sean Boylan, The Caller, 2013, 5 min 31 sec HD video


26. Now the cornfield and the grass are forests. A short movie with a narrative and without repetition which makes one aware of how culturally fearful we are of remote and quiet places. The printed words become ominous. Here the pauses in both sound and image, time ticking by, feel sinister, like the stillness in Real Estate. But we listen more attentively, stare insistently, in suspense. And while we wait, our senses are sharpened, we notice every detail.


Nicholas John Jones, Is this the right path? (CH), 2012, photographic print, 18 x 12.8 cm


27. Sometimes thick fog rises from the surface of the Leman lake, at other times clouds roll relentlessly down the side of the Jura mountains. And there are times when you no longer know which is which. The heavy mist is disorientating, the silence that comes with it almost suffocating. The distances feel infinite but your gaze is constantly thrown back to the foreground. Everything is immediate and time seems to stand still. Neither the painter nor the photographer can leave it alone.


Nicholas John Jones, Albert’s hard squeeze (GB), 2010, paint and clay, 15 x 18 x 15 cm


28. Heavy, clumsy, tangible. A clump of clay that never made it to be a brushstroke. Dressed in a graduated mist of spray paint it hovers between earth and sky, between sculpture and painting. Like Nicholas John Jones’ photographs, the object feels both more real and less certain than the painting.


Nicholas John Jones, Am I mistaken? (GB), 2010-3, oil on canvas, 25.5 x 30.5 cm


29. And then there is the snow that makes everything more quiet still. But this is not snow. In the paintings of Nick John Jones, things are never so simple. Colours never come straight from the tube. Instead they are repeatedly broken, first on the palette and then through repeated superpositions, obliterations, scumbling, washes and juxtapositions. A stillness full of doubts.


Luuk Schrรถder, Measurement, 2013, 10 min 28 sec video


30. Luuk Schrรถder delights in physical sculptures that people will walk right past without noticing, and in the formal announcements of sculptures that have no physical existence. People are known to have fallen into one of his installations before understanding that they were dealing with contemporary art. A philosophical prankster with a professed admiration for Gaston Lagaffe, Luuk Schrรถder is just as well versed in the work of Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty. This video is part of a body of work that deals with absurd topologies in which the camera follows a simple logic without any logical conclusion. Here he films himself walking around a tripod on which he rotates the camera with a piece of string. The mist contributes to the sense of disorientation and isolation and enhances the feeling of void and absurdity.


Luuk Schrรถder, Studio Floor, 2013, masking tape, size variable


31. Luuk Schröder, A sculpture made by taping together a variety of objects that differ greatly in scale, color, shape and material, mixed media, 100 x 100 x 100 cm, 2013 Luuk Schröder, A sculpture made by the brother of the sculptor, materials and size unknown, 2010 Luuk Schröder, A sculpture with unlimited possibilities, mixed media, 12 x 9 x 15 mm, 1999 Luuk Schröder, The space below this room, cobwebs, old construction debris, metal piping, a clay sculpture, wood, mice, brickwork under the walls, sand, a slight breeze because of the ventilation, darkness, the sound of people walking, 5 x 6 x 0.5 m, 2012 Luuk Schröder, Something that has been made in another space, materials and dimensions to be determined, 2014 Luuk Schröder, A wall made of unfixed breeze-blocks placed in the middle of this space until about a week ago, breeze-blocks, 300 x 150 x 20 cm, 2012 Luuk Schröder, A sculpture that maintains itself through different means of self-sustaining energy sources, 2014 Luuk Schröder, A few small shifts, Performance in which a person was asked to make some small, unannounced alterations within this show, 2014 Luuk Schröder, A work but not made by the artist, size and material to be determined, 2014


Nina Rodin, Obliteration, 2014, acrylic on photographc print, 15 x 20 cm


32. A scumbling of brushstrokes and dribbles brings to life an old photographic print. It is again an object that has been touched, albeit the joy that it portrays is now a distant memory. The original image is violently erased to produce a new one that speaks of loss and absence, uncertain memory, more than a heavy mist, a certain void.


Stefan Orlowski, Fog descending over the Jura, 2014, graphite, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm


33. Stefan Orlowski began to experiment with graphite as a result of overlapping with Linda Hemmersbach on the residency. From the garden at Trelex, the Mont Blanc is sometimes visible in the distance, supreme, crisp, sometimes bathing in the gaudy colours of sunset. Yet not one artist has made it the subject of their work. Instead, attention is diverted to the darker moodier Jura. Much more immediately present, the Jura ridges catch in the clouds, covered in snow one day, hoar frost the next. Moisture evaporates in smoky volutes from their flanks, light whisps against darker trees. Never the same, always changing sometimes by the minute. Every artist ends up standing quietly by the studio window.


Linda Hemmersbach, Stilled, 2014, mixed media on paper, 27 x 33 cm (and also Falling off the frame of the earth, 33 x 43 cm)


34 & 35. Smoke, mist, fog, reflections of light, atmospheric changes, a concern with process and material are so many points of departure in Linda Hemmersbach’s meditative work which itself remains fluid, with an emphasis on thin washes and layers to create depth with a fragility that nonetheless has a very strong presence.


Nina Rodin, 1000 round drawings, 2013, ink, paper, cotton, archival acetate pockets, clambshell box with inlaid screen (16 min 44 sec), 41. 5 x 47.5 x 8 cm


36. Another form of visual silence is achieved when a multitude of images cancel each other out. In some ways, this is the premise of this crowded little room of the exhibition space at Gowen Contemporary. Each object in itself is quiet but presented in such close proximity to one another, there is a deliberate risk that they cancel each other out. 1000 round drawings came from playing with a fineliner given to me by resident Melanie Ward, a numbering stamp brought from Seoul by Yoonjung Kim, leftover materials from a previous project with archives, and discussions with Min Kim. As such, this is a direct product of the residency. It sprung from a frustration with representational drawing and an anxiety with respect to the cacophony of images and the din of possible representations that, by continuous association, spring to mind.


Yoonjung Kim, 4 hours - 14.12.2012, 2012, PVC electrical tape, 3.5 x 2.5 x 125 cm


37. Through a laborious, meditative, and very private practice involving the undoing of fundamentally useful objects (rope, tape, pencils, erasers), Yoonjung Kim engages directly with the useless qualities of Art. The work is in the (un)doing, though it is never a performance. Instead we are left with absurd sculptures or drawings that seem to efface themselves to quietly ask larger questions about what the artworks are all for. Resisting the idea of filming the process, Yoonjung Kim asks us instead to imagine the passing of time through objects that make time stand still and put our futile existences in a larger perspective. Is everything we do fundamentally useless or is meditation without production the most useful thing we can do?


Min Kim, Waiting, 2011, charcoal on paper, 832 (+ some) pieces, 28 x 40cm each


38. Min Kim’s practice hovers somewhere between fragility and strength, something tentative and obsessive. An advanced practioner of the art of waiting, many of her works have started as a single drawing that became diptych, a triptych, a longer and longer series while Min Kim waits for the work to suggest a conclusion. And so all these black balloons, so many dark slow charcoal breaths, build up until they make the paper bulge and the drawings become hard to shift. Here the multitude, the repetition add up to an unbearable sadness, a delicately cruel reminder of time passing, of a final darkness. Slowly the charcoal dust, however, seeps out again from inbetween the sheets.




Photograph courtesy of Claire Lawrie (


About The Trelex Residency The Trelex Residency has several unique features: it is entirely free, is advertised by word-of-mouth and artists are welcomed on a first come first served basis for anything from two weeks to three months, depending on their preference, without application forms. And it turns out the advantages are many. There are no application deadlines and I have no piles of applications to deal with. An expression of interest is dealt with instantly: either there is space or there isn’t. When people come, it isn’t because I have selected them and so I haven’t made any promises that this residency is particularly suited to their practice. Instead the responsibility is entirely that of the residents who decide that this is a good use of their time and good for their practice. To this end, I post as much as I can on the website about the facilities and encourage every artist who comes to share their experiences in a way that is helpful to future residents, through a blog entry of their own. Artists aren’t tempted to outbid each other with outlandish claims of what they hope to achieve in advance of getting here but can stay open minded about how best to use their time. I believe this is the main reason that every artist who has come has left with comments about how they have rarely been this productive before. Some people decide to put on a full solo show, others take the opportunity to go right back to



a point where the emphasis is on experimentation, play, and failure rather than finished work. But what suits them is never dictated by external pressures, only by the desires of the artists themselves. This means the residency, with its very minimal administrative framework, generates huge value added for a very wide range of artists. Other residencies put a lot of effort into selecting the most experienced or capable artists who of course generate very good polished shows in the allotted time. At Trelex, artists invariably surprise themselves with what they manage to achieve because the residency trusts them entirely to work at their own pace. And of course, a very significant selection bias occurs. Now that word of the residency has spread far and wide, it is more often than not booked up a good 6 months in advance. Thus, to come, a prospective artist has to be committed enough to buy a plane or train ticket very far in advance and feel sure that even in half a year’s time, this is still what they will most want to do. This means they tend to research this rather carefully, and ask me a lot of questions. And often they come because someone else has chosen to tell them what a fantastic time they had. Invariably this also tends to select for artists willing to take a risk, with a can-do attitude and a high level of independence, all of which makes it very easy for me to welcome them and very enjoyable.


The artists Yair Barak, 1973, Israelien, Tel Aviv Sean Boylan, 1984, Américain, New York et Londres Linda Hemmersbach, 1984, Allemande, Londres Kristofer Henriksson, 1983, Suèdois, Suède Nicholas John Jones, 1982, Britanique, Londres Hyeisoo Kim, 1983, Coréenne du Sud, Séoul


Min Kim, 1981, Coréenne du Sud, Séoul Yoonjung Kim, 1982, Coréenne du Sud, Seéoul Stefan John Orlowski, 1985, Britanique, Lake District Kezia Pritchard, 1983, Britanique, Suède Nina Rodin, 1972, Danoise, Suisse Luuk Schröder, 1987, Néerlandais, Séoul Estelle Thompson, 1960, Britanique, Londres