In mid April I took part in an artist residency programme at Joya:AiR in the mountains of Almería, Spain. I’ve never done a residency before but I wanted to take myself out of my common place and back onto the land to shift perspective and help refocus my energies.
I returned to my own practice as an artist in 2012 and more recently to London to live and work. Having lived in the mountains of the French Cévennes for 9 years, I am finding living in the city to be quite a challenge. My work has been intrinsically linked to the land, the land I lived on or travelled through became a language to study and the pigments and matter I dug from the ground my materials. In 2010 humankind tipped the threshold where more than half of us now live in cities. The sensory overload experienced in the city, particularly by someone like me with Aspergers, can result in a cacophony of input that ceases to make sense and can drown out even our own thoughts. For my residency I wanted to re-energise and recalibrate my perceptions to the land, in short to listen to the land and to myself in silence.
I brought with me sound recording gear and the nucleus of an idea I have been slowly working on for a sculptural installation in which clay forms a vessel or container for sound. During the residency week I spent time listening, recording and researching the type of sounds i might want to bring into the sculpture. I listened to the silence of the mountains and as the ears acclimatise, to the formations of thermal air that shape those sounds.
Standing on the land you can feel it's pulse and an underlying anxiety, hard-wired in us, as we instinctively look for water. Rusty food tins I found discarded in the desert became vessels for carrying effigies made from wet clay found in the base of a dried river gully.
The residency gave me the thinking time I needed and certainly inspired some new strands of thought and possible future projects with clay. Perhaps a week was not long enough to find that silence. Even on a mountain I can find distractions and got roped into cooking for the group but… listening to the group can be just as valuable as listening to the silence.
A warm thanks to Simon and Donna for providing such a nourishing and creative environment and for the opportunity to be an artist in residence.
Joya: arte + ecología is an n artist led field research centre/residency in the alpine deserts of Almería, Spain. A 2.5 hour journey by road from Grenada.
1530s, "image of a person," from Middle French effigie (13c.), from Latin effigies "copy or imitation of something, likeness," from or related to effingere "mold, fashion, portray," from ex- "out" (see ex- ) + fingere "to form, shape" (see fiction ).