A group of multidisciplinary artists are given the opportunity to spend a month at Las Cicadas, a hive of creation in the Ibizan countryside. Co-founded by Tavis Buschmann and Nora Bullerjahn, with the help of gallerist and art curator Sarah Suco Torres, Las Cicadas has become an art residency that weaves locals and travellers into the island’s art scene.
The authentic, 500-year-old Ibicencan farmhouse has been converted into an artistic oasis, providing eight international creators with free housing and workspace. The island’s reputation as having the heartbeat of a thumping nightclub scene is being dismantled as over the winter months a new energy is fostered amongst the tranquility.
From January to February 2024, three multidisciplinary artists spent a month in the 500-year-old villa to let their creativity run rife among the sigh of Ibiza’s quietest months, to focus on their respective practices. We spoke to John Fou, Nicolas Momein, and Romain Sarrot, to catch a glimpse of life inside this paradise.
John Fou
Nicolas Momein
Romain Sarrot
Congratulations on being selected as one of the artists of the Las Cicadas residency. Tell us about the impact of the residency on your ability to create.
Nicolas Momein: Yes, the atmosphere during the residency was exceptional. It was both exhilarating and, at the same time, rather worrying, as the farmland was cruelly short of water. For my part, my work is very often permeated by questions linked to nature and my direct environment. At Las Cicadas, my research focused on questions of light and colour. Being surrounded by nature guided me in my choice of creations and forms, which I then translated onto paper. Part of the series produced at Las Cicadas will be presented at Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière in April.
I understand that the farmhouse is situated in the heart of the fertile Balearic climate. How has living so close to nature impacted your art?
John Fou: Living in Paris is wonderful but I think what is missing is nature. This residency was in the middle of a garden. Painting in Eden could be a good image. Even if Eve was not around. At least I could get focused.
The most important for me was to break the routine that I have in my studio. Taking my bike everyday, riding between the cars and being in the same studio everyday could put me into habits. The whole point of this place was to disconnect and be influenced.
Romain Sarrot: Indeed, however, while the residency is situated at the heart of the island, it’s still just a ten-minute walk from Santa Gertrudis, a village where everything is available, from supermarkets to restaurants, bars, and bakeries. That’s actually the whole point of this residency. Its location, not in the main city but at the center of the island, allows for easy excursions between work sessions while remaining close to familiar elements.
It’s true that the residence itself is surrounded by nature, including a splendid orchard of lemon and orange trees. All these colours, sounds, and scents inevitably influence, consciously or unconsciously, artistic practice. This atmosphere will have, in the short or long term, an impact on the work.
As for me, I already had a production plan in mind, and visiting caverns and seeing rock formations was one of the objectives in order to inspire my new chapter of production.
Did you ever explore the confines of the residency? Or did you feel that the open architecture and refined minimalist design allowed for an open mind?
Romain Sarrot: I must say that Las Cicadas, with its architecture, is unlike other residencies I’ve experienced. The buildings where we reside, dine, and work are not directly connected to each other. This open architecture is very interesting; it allows for a sort of circulation that, in a way, makes us live outdoors.
Although a large part of the time was dedicated to the studio space, this intermittent wandering in the open air was very enjoyable for me. In Paris, most of my ideas and concepts for new works generally come to me outdoors, while cycling to the studio or while taking a walk. The outdoor space allows me to sort through the different influences and aggregate them, and then afterward comes the time for physical production.
John Fou: It's mostly the view that got me, the open blue sky, the lemon and orange trees.
I was working and then I took a break. I went to the garden next to the swimming pool to eat an orange from the tree. I felt free at this time and it clearly impacted my way of entering into my art.
Nicolas Momein: We could have remained confined in this architecture completely open to nature, but we had Sarah (Suco Torres) as our guide to show us the most beautiful spots on the island.
Can you point to any direct Ibizan influence in your art?
Nicolas Momein: For me, the influence was total, because we were completely cut off from our daily lives, deprived of our workshop, our habits and our surroundings.
Romain Sarrot: Despite my practice requiring ample time to digest new visual information, my stay at Las Cicadas wasn’t my first time in Ibiza. Generally, architecture plays a significant role in my production. The houses built by Josep Lluís Sert left a strong impression on me the first time I visited them. During the residency, I went to visit Casa Broner for the first time, where I encountered certain visual elements that will undoubtedly shape my future work. However, this time, my primary interest lay in the caverns scattered across the island. As my practice revolves around staging each chapter of production, I am currently deeply intrigued by these spaces.
How was the local community involved in this residency? Did you interact with the social and historical identity of the island?
Romain Sarrot: During our residency, we met many Eivissenca and Eivissenc who reside on the island year-round. Some were born in Ibiza, and others elsewhere. But they all share this deep knowledge of the environment and its relationship, which is contrary to the stereotypes people may have of Ibiza. Thanks to them, I was able to explore certain parts of the island or authentic places that I didn’t know about and that only the locals know. Because of their preserved nature and authenticity, these discoveries are a true inspiration.
John Fou: Not so much. The bar of San Gertrudis was historical and I was happy to feel the vibe and have a cañitas!
Nicolas Momein: We met many of the island's cultural people and associations, who shared their daily lives with us. But we also got to know more alternative circles, the world of music and nightlife and, of course, the hippie movement, which is still very present on the island.
What was your favourite part of staying at the Las Cicadas residency?
John Fou: Having a fresh lemon every morning (laughs).
Nicolas Momein: Interaction with the group, with Romain, John and Sarah. We benefited enormously from these moments, which I believe enriched us mutually in our practices.
Romain Sarrot: I would say that there is something common to many residencies, and it’s about rhythm. Being removed from the daily routine, meeting new people, and residing in another place creates a different rhythm. I believe that this change in rhythm, which can be destabilising at first, produces a real detachment and creates the ideal conditions for tranquility, letting go, inner readjustment, and therefore, in our profession, the production of new ideas.
But the Las Cicadas residency has something special, a different energy. I knew the residents and their work from Paris, and as for Sarah, the director, we had crossed paths several times before, but spending a month with them allowed me to deeply discover their personalities. I truly felt like I was meeting these people whom I had already met. I think this is one of the things I preferred within the residency.
The stay looked breathtakingly idyllic. Was there ever any trouble in paradise? Did you find yourself faced with any hurdles that you had to overcome?
Romain Sarrot: The artistic practice inherently carries its share of doubt and frustration; these feelings are inherent to production. No place completely erases these realities. I believe that sometimes, they even act as a driving force in giving birth to new ideas. During this residency, I took the time for reflection. I had a goal to accomplish, but I wanted to avoid putting pressure on myself. I truly let the place and the encounters influence the outcome of what I intended to produce there.
John Fou: Eve was not here - that was the only problem (laughs).
Did you draw inspiration from the fellow artists over the duration of the residency, or would you say the experience was more focussed on personal growth?
Romain Sarrot: I draw a lot of inspiration from the elements around me, whether they are artistic, architectural, or even from current events and personal experiences. The work, and especially the moments we spent together, have and will continue, I believe, to influence who I am and therefore my practice in a sense. I remember a story that was told to me by one of the residents during the residency, and it triggered a series of drawings that I produced at Las Cicadas.
Nicolas Momein: As I mentioned earlier, the closeness with friends (Romain and John) during the residency was very enriching and, I believe, changed the guidelines of [my] practice.
We all had different rhythms, but we met up every day in the studio. Getting out of the usual solitude imposed by a workshop practice is something quite exceptional, which feeds and questions one's relationship to oneself and to the group.
John Fou: It's more personal, I came with ideas and a format, and I let myself go. Every artist has their own discipline so I get focused on mine. It was a good time to centre.
I understand that residents were drawn from all types of disciplines. Tell me about the variation in style and speciality?
John Fou: Romain is a sculptor, a painter and a thinker. Nicholas came up with a really specific technique that he developed a few months ago, but he is very picky and I can't reveal it (winks and laughs)!
Romain Sarrot: You can always find links between a lot of practices. I do installations, sculptures. My artistic practice revolves around the concept of metamorphosis and societal exploration. Inspired by a myriad of influences, they serve as the essential pillars of my production, as I seek to imagine and conceptualise a fictitious syncretism. This symbology, rooted in imagination and sensitivity, transforms society into a repertoire of forms, each laden with its own narrative and cultural significance. Central to my practice is the staging of each creation as characters in an illusory theatrical play. These sculptures and installations are not static entities but dynamic actors in a larger narrative, reprogrammed with other works to create unique settings and produce their own stories. Nicolas and John have their own amazing practice, and they’ll do a better job in explaining what they do by themselves. Practice is always shifting, and what I can say would be that even though I’m closer to Nicolas in terms of work, I was a little more influenced by John during the residency.
Did you ever work together on pieces, combining your respective skills and viewpoints?
John Fou: We got this idea before the residency. We spoke about the possibility to do something all together but when you are inside you just want to go on with your [own] revelations. We were very happy to speak about our practices and share at the end of the day.
I am interested in the cyclical pattern of leaving a piece of work behind after your stay, for the next group of artists to enjoy. The identity of the farmhouse is a collaborative process, formed by the footprint of each resident. Tell us a bit about this. Did you leave any work behind?
Romain Sarrot: There was no obligation to leave a piece produced during the residency behind, but the idea of contributing through memory and trace to the welcoming of the next residents seemed obvious to us three. Just as the practice of each of us naturally influenced our work, the resonance of the works left behind may participate in the production of future residents. I think there will always be a sort of connection that will remain from the previous residents, like a sort of large-scale exquisite corpse (cadavre exquis).
John Fou: Of course! I left a drawing. I think it's a sharing process, all the team was so dedicated and we never felt any pressure about anything. I had all the freedom to create and do what I wanted. It was obvious for me, and a real pleasure to leave something for the place.
Do you think there is a tangible difference between the art created in metropolitan spaces and that created in the realm of the natural?
Romain Sarrot: I believe there can be a significant difference between artwork created in urban environments and that created in natural settings. Regarding my own experience, since the residency only lasted for 1 month, the short duration may not have been sufficient to noticeably alter my artistic practice. However, over the long term, it is clear that the environment in which one resides can indeed exert an influence.
John Fou: As I said, it's more about breaking the routine. Each break helps me to advance. I came up with ideas and finally found other ideas that I brought to Paris.
Nicolas Momein: No, I think it depends entirely on the artist’s preoccupations. It’s perfectly possible to work on agricultural issues while living in the city, just as it's possible to be influenced by the city while living in the country. My experience has enabled me to live in both: the city and the country, and I’ve always tried to build bridges between these two types of habitat.
It sounds like the space provided you with the material to expand your artistic ability. But what does this tell us about artists who do not have access to such an expanse of space and beauty? What advice do you have for artists who have to create in cramped spaces?
John Fou: No advice, make it happen! Work honestly and work again and again and Sarah will see your work and will invite you to the residency. It's all about doing and doing until you find something or somebody finds you.
Nicolas Momein: This question reminds me of the work of the American painter Morris Louis, who responded to the constraints of space with a remarkable work on canvas. We still don't know how he managed to paint such large canvases in a room of around 8 m², which didn't allow the canvases to be laid out flat.
Romain Sarrot: In my view, what truly matters is the vessel, not the materials or resources. With just a pen and some paper, one can express oneself fully. While my artistic practice often requires ample materials and space, when these are not available, I adapt by condensing the work and exploring new approaches. It becomes more compact and light, yet still retains its essence. Ultimately, I believe the real wealth lies in time - not in space or financial resources, but in the time dedicated to creation.
Do you think the legacy of Las Cicadas could extend to other places? Could this open up a new future of artistic residency for artists across the world?
Nicolas Momein: I think that the system set up by Las Cicadas is a model to be developed, in fact, it could exist in other contexts and other types of places. Why not in farmers' homes, or in island companies?