Joya: AiR / Stephen Bennett / UAL art for the environment award winner
Nine Quadrats @ Joya
“My residency at Joya: arte + ecología has opened my practice to routes and pathways I didn’t know existed. This was the case even from the application process, where I was successful in securing the residency through the University of the Arts London Environment International Artist Residency Programme. I was already being inspired by reading about Joya’s important mission, their approach to resource sustainability, and the artistic research that Simon Beckmann had done into the ‘ephemeral water systems’ (Sistemas Efímeros). Joya seemed the perfect setting to experiment with land and environmental art, which I researched and blogged about ahead of the trip; I wanted to somehow link this to mapping the terrain, which I also investigated prior to and during the residency.
Whilst I prepared a good deal before the residency, in reality no one can really be ready for the sights, smells and sounds of Joya. The location is set amongst contouring almond groves, surrounded by pine-clad mountains, with an ever-changing light, which changes from silvery through to deep amber-pink. Despite the beautiful studio with stunning view, I couldn’t wait to hike the nearest mountain, and ascended the nearby Sierra Larga. The summit is covered in sculptural limestone paving. Standing at the top, taking in the panoramic view, I recalled some of the land and map research I had done ahead of the visit. I decided to try and ‘capture’ the topography and biology using an interpretation of the quadrat sampling technique (see pictures).
Upon descending to the studio, surrounded by other artists creatively exploring the landscape in other ways, I constructed a second square, this time on the map. Starting with the location of the quadrat I had just constructed, I identified eight other corners or midpoints of the square. Over the next ten days I visited each of these and assembled a location-specific quadrat, made only of the resources in the location environment – stones usually, but also sticks and the bare earth. Other photos are included in this blog, and a full narration of the piece is provided here.
Without the residency at Joya, it is unlikely that I would have taken this step into an unfamiliar territory and explored making temporary, sustainable art deep in a fragile landscape. The location, the presence of a curated group of diverse and fascinating artists, the critical guidance of Simon Beckmann (and the insanely good food provided!), all enable a fertile and productive experience. This setting has allowed me to take some important steps forward in my artistic practice, and I will never forget the opportunity Joya has provided”.