I spent the October of 2018 as an artist-in-residence at the Valparaiso Foundation in Mojácar, Spain, to make contact with clay artists of the region, collect local wild-clay and create objects reaching back to the roots. During my stay the unique environment, the unusual, lunar landscapes served as an inspiration for the creative process. My residency was supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary.
Fundación Valparaíso, Mojácar, Almería, Spain
Fundación Valparaíso is a prestigious, private, non-for-profit institution founded in 1989 by Paul and Beatrice Beckett, with the aim to offer artists from all over the world and from all branches of the arts (writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, visual artists, etc.) a quiet and peaceful retreat where they can concentrate on their art, free from distractions and duties of daily life. I shared the facilities with four fellow artists: Matias Factorovich (painter, Argentina), Kathryn Lynch (painter, United States), Jette Mellgren (land artist, Denmark) and Elizabeth Rosner (writer, United States). During the joint dinners founder Beatrice Beckett and director Marie-Laure González shared many details about the past and current activities of the foundation and the heritage of their former artists-in-residence. Marie-Laure was our main support during our stay.
Mojácar is one of the “most beautiful villages in Spain”, sits on a hillside looking down on the Mediterranean. In addition to the sea and sunlight, the municipality is increasingly focusing on cultural heritage in the development of tourism, and the foundation plays a key role in this. They are situated in a rural environment, in a valley opposite the town, at the foot of the “Pyramid”, the iconic hill of the village, which hosted inhabitants of Old-Mojácar until the 12th century.
I received support and tips on other makers in the region from ceramist Itziar Ortuzar; she also told us about the artistic life and possibilities of the area. Matthew Weir was my main source of information about local clays, he lives and works in Níjar, a pottery center in the region. Is his studio he shared details about active and abandoned clay deposits and unfolded the complete mining history of the region—gold and bentonite mines, deposits of manganese, cobalt and copper minerals also used for ceramic decoration—and their industrial and cultural historical background. We were happy to see his solo exhibition in Málaga in November.
Based on his valuable help we collected two different types (“blue” and “yellow”) of wild clays, and visited Cuesta Alta’s abandoned cobalt mines near Huércal-Overa. We didn’t find cobalt but a lot of secondary copper and iron minerals we used in a pulverized form later on my vessels.
Terra: Cabo de Gata series
Pieces of the Cabo de Gata sets are my reflections on the scarce vegetation, arid, semi-desertic landscapes and eroded, volcanic geology exposed in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, Almería.
“Wild-clay” experiments: pit-firing
For the pit-firing I used local almond and olive tree branches and eucalyptus leaves, and decorated the pieces using plant fragments found in the neighborhood, like internal “skeletons” of cacti. Most of the finished vessels stayed at the foundation as a land-art installation.
Overall I spent four challenging weeks at Fundación Valparaíso, learning new techniques and working with unknown materials, experimenting in a free-form way in a welcoming atmosphere.
During this month spent in Mojácar we had the chance to explore and discover the neighboring area, too. We saw semi-desert landscapes, wild beaches, enchanted Andalusian towns, and we were also lucky enough to get to know art activists and former artists-in-residents who had settled in Mojácar due to the openness of its people and pleasant climate.