Posts tagged UAL
Joya: AiR / University of the Arts London - Art for the Environment Award / Gwen Van Den Bout
photo Simon Beckmann

photo Simon Beckmann


“Joya: AiR is an arts residency for artists and writers. Joya: AiR describes itself as not only a unique, stimulating and contemplative environment for international artists and writers, but as a meeting point for divergent and creative thinking. The residency offers an ‘off-grid’ experience in the heart of the Parque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez in the north of the Provincia de Almería, Andalucía.

My residency at Joya: AiR was generously supported by The Art for the Environment International Artist Residency Programme, an award to explore concerns that define the twenty-first century - biodiversity, environmental sustainability, social economy, human rights - and through their artistic practice, envision a world of tomorrow. I had proposed to make a new series of artworks sitting within the body of work called Future Geology. A self-initiated material futures project which I propose to conduct further research and material experimentation for during the focused period of the residency.

The gems on the image are a poetic translation of these topics (2014-15)

The gems on the image are a poetic translation of these topics (2014-15)


Future Geology

Future Geology focusses on the simulation of human effects on the earth’s crust. In the era of Anthropocene, human activities have a global impact on the Earth. The project addresses the effects of humankind depleting natural resources and polluting our soil. In reading rocks, we read the story of our restless planet. We come to understand its complex patterns of interaction and the nature of change over deep geological time.

Therefore, I created ‘future stones’ over the past nine years; made of artificial materials such as metal, chemical resin, plastic, aluminium, concrete, textile, plaster, glass fiber and glass. In this project I am looking for new compositions that question how our soil can be used for aesthetic purposes, exploring the design opportunities presented by recycled materials. Over the last years I have been refining the sculptures and adding onto it. This artist in residency helps to crystallise my creative practice further and the image below shows one of the first sculptures of this ongoing project made in 2010.

First sculpture made of Future Geology (2010)

First sculpture made of Future Geology (2010)


The JOYA: AiR experience

Grateful for the opportunity to travel to Joya: AiR I tried to approach the residency as a blank canvas in order to arrive with an open approach and allow myself to soak the environment up as much as possible. However, in preparation of the residency together with the research I conducted I did get an image on how Joya: AiR might be. A beautifully renovated artist in residency located in the “parque natural sierra de maria los velez” surrounded by an incredibly mountain landscape. On my arrival that was confirmed directly. At 8.30PM I got picked up at the bus stop Velez Rubio (the closest you can get with public transport). Simon friendly welcomed me and took me with his Land Rover over the rural country roads to the natural park. It is a 20 minute drive and that made that we approached the house steady but slowly while the sunset took place. A magical start of this amazing experience.

view from Joya: AiR

view from Joya: AiR


On arrival my expectations were more than true. The curators of Joya: AiR, Donna and Simon, greeted me with open arms and it was a warm (literally and figuratively) place to stay for two weeks. One of the most special experiences at Joya: AiR was the silence. Especially when being used to living in London, which is never silent or quiet, that was something that stood out from my very first day. It is an incredible valuable gift to experience silence, peace of mind and tranquility. The benefits of that has seeped through to my art. Granting yourself the headspace to sit and contemplate is priceless. I was distracted the very first days, because I am pretty addicted to being constantly productive. For me this felt very unusual and a bit uncomfortable to get used to as well. In English there isn’t a specific word for it, but in Dutch we call it “niksen”. These very first days of “doing nothing” gave me new insights and ideas and I started to love it. I would usually go on a morning walk before it got 36 degrees outside. I would walk through the valley, climb a mountain or sit under a tree to observe and generate ideas. After a couple of days I started making and realising ideas that weren’t part of the plan.

landscape around Joya: AiR

landscape around Joya: AiR

Apart from the contemplative aspect of the residency, the social contact and community aspect was an important part of the experience as well. We would present our work to each other, share perspectives on particular subject and generate ideas on how to make a living as an artist. During the day the artist would work individually and approximately every second evening one of the residents would present their work followed by a tasty dinner party where everyone would share thoughts and ideas. Sharing stories, experience and food was absolutely an added value and contributed to the many fruitful conversations I had.

supper time at Joya: AiR

supper time at Joya: AiR

sunset at Joya: AiR

sunset at Joya: AiR


As a multi-disciplinary artist my work always involves creative research, narratives, installation art and material innovation. During residency I developed and discovered the potential of these Future Geology materials further. For this edition of Future Geology I focussed solely on plastic and created rock formations made from household waste or plastic found in nature. These artificial rocks I photographed in nature to start a dialogue with the viewer on when nature starts or ends. And when a landscape finishes or ends. The findings of the work I made in the first week were translated in the series of sculptures I created in the second week.

Photographs out of photographic serie made at JOYA, Future Geology (2019)

Photographs out of photographic serie made at JOYA, Future Geology (2019)

During the artistic research about plastics and landscapes I found out that the region Almería in Spain contains a plastic sea. This involves 30 miles of white plastic greenhouses. Once a year the plastic needs to be replaced and the plastic sheets are dumped on the land. This resulted in land covered with plastics which are meters high. Even though, I didn’t have the possibility to visit this region myself, it does resonate with my project and the research influenced the formation of the project Future Geology.

Plastic Sea from an aerial perspective, Almeria, Spain

Plastic Sea from an aerial perspective, Almeria, Spain

In many aspects my time at Joya: AiR was valuable. Personally as well as professionally. Beauty, silence, environment and headspace was enriching and nourishing. Granting yourself the time to re-work and revise is priceless. The off-grid experience in rural Spain made me also critically look at my own living environment on an off-grid narrowboat in London and ultimately the amazing insights and conversations with the fellow residents is absolutely something to cherish.

Impact and future plans

At Joya: AiR I got the opportunity to expand and create a new body of work. Besides that it also gave me the unique opportunity to think about my future plans. What is next and which ambitions do I want to realise and prioritise. My time in rural Spain was an inspiring and great input to crystallise my future plans. As an environmentalist this influenced not only my perspective on my work, but also on my personal life. The residency is off-grid and carbon neutral. It was very interesting to hear the presentation by Simon about their story and in particular the water life cycle. It is a tricky thing especially in such a dry area. Also the electricity is generated in a sustainable way with photo voltaic and wind energy. That made it an inspirational source in itself as an artist working with the environment. On top of that, the experience also made me look at my own living environment. In London, off-grid and on a narrow boat. Totally self-sufficient as well but in a completely different manner. Some parts of this do overlap, but others differ. This made me look at my current living critically. Thoughts about how improvement could be made for me personally but also for the waters of the canal river trust. This might result in a future project. In the next 6-10 months I would love to find a suitable place in London to exhibit the collection of Future Geology artworks. Besides that I am looking into future opportunities on living on a narrow boat floating over the London canals. I do have the ambition to create, form and make my own boat from scratch and make it a platform for the future. Not only fuelling my own ambition, but also serving tourists, visitors and Londoners”.

Gwen van den Bout


Gwen is a London and Rotterdam based conceptual artist, graduate of a masters in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. In her work she translates stories into interactive and sensorial spaces where the audience can explore her work intuitively and create their own meaning. Gwen makes art installations, curates exhibitions and creates sensorial brand experiences. Gwen previously studied at two universities in the Netherlands where she completed a BA at Breda University of Applied Science and a BA at Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam. She gained industry experience at several museums and cultural festivals, as well as with luxury retail companies, including working as a Visual Merchandiser for de Bijenkorf, the largest department store in the Netherlands. Gwen also won an open call from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam to exhibit her contemporary installation artwork at the museum. Looking to the future, Gwen is focused on working in multi-disciplinary environments where she can communicate stories – ranging from exhibitions in museums, intuitive installations and outstanding window design. She is passionate about participative culture and bridging the gap between the commercial and cultural worlds.

Joya: AiR / Roman Sheppard Dawson / UK

“The time to reflect and reconsider your practice is often overlooked or neglected in favour of production. While at Joya, the opportunity to slow down and pay attention to some of the natural anchors in your work cannot be underestimated. It has been a privilege to walk in the beautiful Sierra María-Los Vélez national park and to bond with a group of artists varying in creative disciplines. The type of thinking achieved here is unique and has made powerful ripples in my life.

As you allow yourself to commit to Joya’s temperament, you become aware of the detail and care that has been taken to create this experience. The subtlety of both Donna and Simon to be available and yet hidden from view allows you to safely commit to deep thinking and the ability to separate yourself from the daily routine that we are all seeking to forget.

The landscape and the people get under your skin in a way that is hard to do justice in words. It is something shared by those who have been in residence at Joya and I imagine every group who passes through has a different shade or hue that colours the landscape.

I look forward to bringing what I have discovered back into my continuing practice in London and hope to uncover elements of my practice I was not aware were going through a transformation.

Thank you”.

Roman Sheppard Dawson

Roman Sheppard Dawson is a moving image artist based in London and a Central Saint Martins graduate in fine art 4D. His work has evolved from moving image based sculptures into a practice exploring movement/gesture in the moving image and space.

Joya: AiR / Holly Campbell / UK

“I had applied for the Joya Air residency with the intention of retreating from the busyness of life to immerse myself in nature and allow time and space to begin personal writing projects. I had never been on an artist residency before, but Joya: AiR really called to me. It’s beautiful remote and natural location, the sustainably maintained centre and welcoming, minimalist rooms – I knew I had to spend time here clear my vessel, to recharge and to create.

Arriving at Joya: AiR, I was taken aback by the immensity of the surrounding landscape. Mountains and trees rolled for miles and for as far as the eye could see. The centre was beautifully decorated in artwork. Other artists were welcoming, and Donna and Simon had been so inviting that it felt like they had given me my own home in theirs.  

My creative intention whilst spending time at the residency was to write. I had allowed myself a few days with no pressure of making or doing anything, but to simply be in the space. I connected with the other artists, listened to the diversity of their backgrounds and disciplines and spent time walking the mountains around the centre.

I realised that my artistic background was quite unconventional compared to the other creatives I had met there. I had studied BA Social Care and Education Studies before graduating from MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice. The jump in discipline was inspired by a passion for social justice, feminism and equality. After gaining a deep sociological perspective of power differentials and oppression experienced by intersectional groups during my first degree, I was charged by a drive to take meaningful action. In a year between studying the degrees, I established, a blog and collective of women that used fashion as a platform for addressing feminist issues and empowering women. I went on to study to gain insight into how I could use contemporary media as a channel for positive social change.

Until this year, my life purpose and career motivation had mapped out in a linear fashion. Yet, since being caught up in the chaos of working life, I had felt stuck without knowing which direction to take next. I know that I have to create in a way that is underlined by my passion to affect positive change. I had intended on spending my time at Joya: AiR by using the medium of writing to do this - to allow myself time to write creatively and with intention. Specifically, writing to launch a new blog project that comments on contemporary media, popular culture and feminism. However, my time at the residency served an unexpected journey for me, and a bigger and deeper purpose. Joya: AiR held a space for me to retreat and to reflect on where I had been, where I am now and where I want to go - basic reflections that my busy life had distracted me from. Conversations with like minded creatives fuelled and inspired a whole new realm of paths and possibilities that I could take to achieve my goals.

Beyond providing a studio space for me to write about my passions, Joya: AiR served an invaluable purpose, through free time and a relaxing but creative environment, that allowed me to reach clarity on my work. I have returned home from my time at the centre feeling motivated, peaceful and excited for my next endeavour (which I am keeping close to my chest until I’m ready to share with the world!)”.

Holly Campbell

Joya: AiR / UAL Art for the Environment Award 2018

Internationally acclaimed artist, UAL (University of the Arts London) Chair of Art and the Environment Lucy Orta has launched an Art for the Environment Residency Programme, in partnership with residency programmes across Europe. Applicants get to choose between two and four week residencies at one of the hosting institutions, to explore concerns that define the twenty first century - biodiversity, environmental sustainability, social economy, human rights - and through their artistic practice, envision a world of tomorrow.

This is the third time that Joya: AiR has been invited to host the recipient of the award and we are very pleased to announce this years selected artist as Bronwyn Seier.

We will hear more from Bronwyn when she arrives in September.

Joya: AiR / Clara Dias / Portugal

"When applying to Joya: AiR I intended be close to nature, in isolation and completely away from chaotic London, where I have found myself feeling claustrophobic and making work that responded to ways of breathing in a squared format.

By spending a week away from the references and connotations that I am familiar with, I was able to immerse myself in the surrounding landscape and safely experiment, while being introspection, contemplation and self-reflection with one own artistic practice.

I walked around Joya: AiR site, sang to the mountains, collected found objects, taking analogue photographs and drawing its shapes. I have transferred my impressions and recollections of the landscape by hand sewing pieces of fabric with threads with the colours of the surroundings. 

The relocation of my practice to a natural environment opened up to new lines of questioning and the possibility of new elements into the work and wider perspective on the ways of production. 

This residency has facilitated the involvement, engagement and exchange not only with the hosts Simon and Donna, but also with fellow residents that challenged and added a new perspective into my practice and career. Consequently, this introduced new perspectives that empower the exploration of other possibilities and give me a better understanding of the diverse ways my work is perceived".


Clara Dias



• Florbela espanca – Antologia Poetica

• Fernando Pessoa – the book of disquiet

• Paulo Coelho – the alchemist

• Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos – My sweet orange tree

• Sophia de Mello Breyner – Shores, Horizons, Voyages – Selected poems

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”.