Artist from Australia wins ‘artist in residence’ project

Swiss-Australian artist Lucienne Fontannaz-Howard received top marks for her work. 

In January 2016, the ‘Foundation for the Area for the Swiss Abroad’ and the ‘Galerie am Leewasser’ in Brunnen jointly launched the ‘artist in residence’ project as part of the 25th anniversary of the ‘Area for the Swiss Abroad’.

It was aimed at Swiss artists abroad and applications were received from all over the world. The winner was announced on 15 April in the presence of Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann. The quality of work and the project envisaged by Swiss-Australian artist Lucienne Fontannaz-Howard received top marks. The native of Canton Vaud who lives in Sydney will take up residence from 16 July to 13 August 2016. 

From Bex, in the canton Vaud to Sydney in Australia, how did you become a Swiss Abroad?


Whenever I visit Bex or even think of the small town and is surrounding mountains, I am deeply moved. My parents, siblings and I left our hometown when I was quite young, as my father was offered a teaching position in Lausanne. But Bex never left me. In those days, it still had echoes of the past, of the many travellers from all over the world who visited this little town at the foot of the Alps.


What links with Switzerland do you still have today?


I usually return to Switzerland each year as I still have family in and near Lausanne – my mother, siblings, cousins – as well as friends and colleagues. In Sydney, I have given talks about my work and exhibited paintings on Swiss subjects within the context of the Swiss Australian Cultural Association. In 2015, I curated the Swiss Artists Exhibition in the pavilion located on the famous Bondi Beach. Earlier, I co-curated and brought to Sydney a major exhibition of works from the Lausanne Collection de l’Art Brut. Opened by the Swiss Ambassador to Australia, this was a major cultural exchange.


Do you feel the influence of this ‘double belonging’ in your work as an artist?


I do indeed. From my Sydney studio with bay windows overlooking the wide horizon of the Pacific Ocean, I decided to explore through painting my own sense of place, conjuring up the essence of the Swiss mountains and lakes that I remembered well and was missing so much. The many works I created on this subject were accompanied by quotes from famous early travellers in the Alps, scientists and writers.


Why did you wish to participate in the program ‘artist in residence’ program?


I applied for the residency in Brunnen because I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to explore the many enticing aspects of the town and region, past and present:  its landscapes, geography, history and legends. Brunnen and its surroundings is less familiar to me, but by all accounts is very beautiful with its green hills reaching down all the way to its winding lake, and ist majestic nearby mountains.


What do you miss most about Switzerland in Australia?


I definitely miss the sublime vistas of the Alps, the mountain lakes, walking in these grand landscapes at different seasons, their closeness and relationship to towns. I know best that I miss the Alps when the cloud formations along the Pacific Ocean’s horizon turn into a distant mountain range, clearly present but unreachable, or when I swim in the warm waters and see high waves rising to peaks with surf board riders sliding down like skiers in powdered snow.  The landscape of one’s childhood will reassert itself, anywhere!


What will you miss most about Australia during your residence in Brunnen?


I am quite sure that the intense and exciting experience of the residency in Brunnen will be (almost) all consuming and therefore I will not have a lot of time to think about Australia!