Joya: art & ecology field trip 2019

At the beginning of June a dozen of us arrived at Joya for a week of creative isolation at Cortijada Los Gázquez (3281 ft.1000m alt.) a 20 hectare ‘off-grid’ rural farm in the heart of the Sierra María-Los Vélez Natural Park, Almería, Spain. A life-long project by Simon and Donna Beckman, Joya:Air is an international artists’ retreat.  Working together with an intensity not found in the Archway studios, we experimented, walked, made and shared – meals, studios, exploration and conversation. Here are some of the results…


Claires photograph of white stone in the Landscape



Claire McDermott

Joya:Air is set in the hill tops of an unspoilt landscape of Sierra Maria, Los Gázquez. It forms an ideal base for tranquillity and valuable reflections. I wanted to interact with this landscape to create artworks of white circles as a symbol of spent energy.

A drought that lasted three years meant the bugs, birds and animals had all disappeared. Luckily with recent rainfalls I woke at dawn to hear the most amazing bird song, amplified by their own excitement. The next morning, at 4am I watched the sun entice the birds and felt their invisible pure energy.

Di Wingate

….and breathe – take in the location, the sunlight, tranquility, 360 degrees view, aromas, sounds of nature, wind, birds, fauna…. sit, watch, think, walk- about, around, along, up and down, discuss, eat, consider, photograph, video, experiment, paint, draw, create, visit, history, experiment again, walk some more, relax, smile, forget time, forget politics, enjoy the now – enjoy La Joya.

Laura Madeley

a week of environmental immersion, experiments with light and shadow, sundials and sculpture-clocks, sketchbooks and solarisation. a chance to play with shape, form and distortion across 2D, 3D and digital media.  an opportunity to work within, and be inspired by the landscape, and to consider relationships between art and the environment.  a chance to work alongside peers and be inspired by the imaginations, talents and energy of other creative makers.  enough time to stop, step out of routines, and for ideas to go in a different direction altogether.

Phil Barton

What a privilege to experience a whole week immersed in nature, no social media, no deadlines and space to be. Inspiration came from the work and processes of my colleagues, the white/grey eroding soil, the light, wild flora…

5.30 in the evening: “Sitting. Listening. Watching. Vehicle far away, insects buzzing – one passes my ear, loudly. Heat shimmers as it begins to cool. Breeze washing over me, moves flowers and pine needles and this page and the windmill now also buzzing in the distance. A louder gust gently roars the treetops. Dog barking. Backlit wildflowers – yellow, ochre, white, pink, blue, purple… Pine cones amongst needle lacework against azure sky. Poppies along the tracks. Decrepit terraces tumble down the hillside; stony soil, white, like chalk, but isn’t. Ancient trees along the banks. Pruned. Orange lichen. Sun still warm through dappled shade…”



Qian Zhang (Tracey)

La Joya strikes me as a retreat away from the modern world such as the fictitious valley of Shangri-La. Geographically, it is isolated and perhaps there is a lack of modern conveniences we take for granted in the city. But for me, its relative isolation and partial inconvenience provide a wider space to perceive the relationship between myself and the others, nature, and even human evolution in history. By physically being there, I have acquired first hand something simple but profound through some basic activities such as cooking, tasting and sharing various terrific food in the interior atmosphere of calm and order, collecting stones and cypress cones, enjoying the delightful time with Joya’s mascots, Fufu and Frida.

Qinming Feng (Fung)

I have done the first experiment during the Joya trip, which used salt as the base medium to produce uric acid crystal. The process contained four steps, first, submerge the foams, which the poriferous structure can help it absorbing the liquid and fixing the crystallised salt, in saturated salt water. Then expose the salted foams on sunlight in order to evaporate the moisture. Thirdly, re-immerse the foam in urine liquid to use the crystallised salt as the medium and the base for uric acid crystallisation to do the ion exchange between urine and sodium, finally evaporate the residual liquid again.

Rose Mengmei Zhou


Yang Li

The first thing I want to say is the trip is awesome: work together, live together and play together really let me learn a lot from my treasured classmates.

Living under the same roof with them let me deeply feel and observe the western life style, such as the morning coffee and dinner wine. I truly felt my language ability has significantly progressed.

Luckily I found my final direction during the time there, and I had a chance to try some new ways of making art works. I have to say JOYA is a great place to think ideas and do projects, although there is a weak wifi and 4G signal.

Mariana Heilmann

Going to La Joya was like stepping out of known dimensions of time….at Los Gasques  time doesn’t tick, it hummmmms and if you listen, you can hear.

If I were to go there all over again, I would stop.  And listen. 

Instead, I dove straight in to do the work that I had planned to do: extract pigments from surrounding plants. Of course my ambitions were far greater than the time I had to fulfil them, and I was on a constant race against time to do as much as I could. 

This was a fantastic opportunity that allowed me to do something that I would not normally have had the time to do. It was heaven to be fully engaged and immersed. It felt like a huge privilege and luxury.

The simplicity of living. The silence. The camaraderie. Ending the days around the table groaning with food and engaging in conversation….or silence…either way…there was a feeling of peace and openness.

What Donna and Simon have created is truly inspiring. It is a gift to all of us who have the good fortune to take part in their vision and benefit from their generosity.

And here is some of the work we left behind us, with thanks to Simon, Donna and Heather…

about time


it’s about time

marking time 

watching time pass

taking time to start

finding time to stop

time to end up somewhere else

time to start something new


it’s about time

marking time 

paying attention to time

to daytime and night time

to sleep time and wake time

it’s about losing track of time

not waiting for a time when

there’s enough time

when there’s never enough time

and that time never comes


it’s about time

marking time

taking the time to listen

taking all the time that’s needed

having time to process

having too much time to think

it’s about trying to make up for lost time

and accepting time just doesn’t work like that


it’s about time, marking time –

remembering a time when….

a wrong time

a time when

we caught it just in time

its about the times in life

when time speeds up

when time stands still

its about the dead time

killing time

wasting time

accepting when its time to concede


it’s about time, marking time – 

remembering time

another time

the first time

the last time

the only time

that time

this time

next time

the first time for a long time


it’s about time

marking time

a right time

choosing how we spend our time

making the most of the time we have left

taking time to finish

taking time to reflect

time to stop

time to leave

time to arrive

time to start

time to commit


it’s about time

marking time

making time

time to begin

time to begin again


Laura Madeley