“You walk through your life every day and you don’t realise that everything you’re touching and feeling, and even smelling has been influenced by an artist.”
These are the words of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s inaugural artist in residence Jennifer Trouton, who took up the position at the start of this academic year.
Trouton will be based within the Design Building, working alongside students from the Departments of Architecture and Design, and Urban Planning and Design, to contribute to the collaborative and creative learning environment at XJTLU. In addition to progressing her own work as an artist, she will run workshops with students and potentially create new artwork for the University.
Reflecting on her time at XJTLU so far, Trouton says she finds the University to be a motivating environment to create in.
“Coming here every day is quite inspiring – I think it’s different coming into an institution, rather than a studio because you really get the sense that you are part of something bigger than yourself,” she says.
“The future is at these kids’ fingertips. It’s nice to be around the younger generation and all their hopes and dreams.
“My studio space is as important to me as my home and it’s always nerve-wracking to see if a new space will work but I already feel completely comfortable here and I know I will be able to make work.”
This is the third international residency for the award-winning artist, who has had residencies in both Banff County, Canada and Santa Monica in the United States.
With a background in oil painting, Trouton is new to much of the high-tech design equipment she now shares a space with.
“Seeing these 3D forms and a 3D printer blows my mind – I hope I can work with the students and do some work that challenges me as an artist, like being exposed to this different technology, or new ways of thinking,” she says.
“Likewise, I think I can add something different for the students because I use a completely different medium to the students here who are far more design focussed.
“Hopefully I can tap into their technology and their skills but at the same time, they can use my art as a starting point for their own work.”
Trouton’s subject matter focusses largely on her home country of Ireland, with its social, cultural and religious roots at the heart of her work.
“My work is about place and history, and me and my family history too,” she says.
Her studio is already lined with a series of intricate watercolour paintings which will form part of a show she has been commissioned to produce for a gallery in Belfast, which will run in 2020.
Professor Giesela Loehlein, head of the Department of Architecture and Design, who was instrumental in setting up the artist residency, says she is looking forward to seeing what happens as a result of the initiative.
“Artist in residence programmes are a fantastic way to foster cultural exchange and interdisciplinary exploration,” she says.
“We are honoured to welcome such a high-calibre artist onto our campus, and we can’t wait to see where this leads.”
China poses a new adventure for Trouton, with XJTLU being her first residency in the country. While she is sure China will influence her work, she is not sure how yet.
“China fascinates me because of its marriage of technology and modernity, and adherence to, and love of tradition,” she says.
“Residences are always interesting because you go in a direction you didn’t expect to go. I don’t know how this experience is going to feed into my work, but I think it will.”
The artist in residence position is unpaid, providing an artist with a complimentary studio space on campus.
By Joseph Jones, edited by Rosanna Galvin