Archive for February, 2012

La Vida Los Vélez / de la amenaza

Last Saturday was a wonderful and enlightening day for us here at Los Gázquez. We, along with others from the Andalucían Bird Society, were guests of our friend and colleague Jesús Contreras of OZ NATURE, wildlife guide and total enthusiast for all things natural and from Almería. If you are  in these parts make sure you contact him as a guide if you should ever want deep insight to the natural world and the creatures that populate it in these desert lands.

The day started with a trip to our neighbours over the mountain at the ‘Las Almohallas Centro de Recuperación de Especies Amenzadas’, the centre for the recuperation of threatened species. This is where I found this wonderful Eagle Owl…


Sadly he/she will never return to the wild as it’s wings were damaged by power lines.

la_directorThis is the director of the centre cradling what is normally a very gregarious Barn Owl. With fewer people there, apparently, he happily jumps from shoulder to shoulder.

Having once been a volunteer ‘chick weigher’ for the Barn Owl Conservation Trust in the UK I can only imagine this to be a slightly painful experience as those small but powerful talons grab ones shoulder.

This bird too will never return to the wild as nearly all these creatures are victims to power lines, smugglers, hunters, farmers putting out poison etc. It’s a long litany of assaults on innocent wildlife and something repeated on a daily basis all around the world.

tortugaThis is one of hundreds of tortoise confiscated from smugglers by the Guardia Civil. These smugglers are taking the reptiles from the Atlas mountains of Morocco and selling them to the European pet trade completely illegally. We have native species in Almería too, the biggest threat to them is fire. As Spain is currently in it’s longest drought in 40 years the danger this summer through fire to these animals is much increased.


This is a Bonelli’s Eagle, another victim. This bird can live up to 32 years, let’s hope it’s not all behind bars…

PeregrinThis little Peregrine Falcon was just so beautiful and sadly again another injured bird. However the work undertaken by the Junta de Andalucía’s environmental department is crucial in so many ways. Not only do they recuperate birds to return to nature but they enrol those that can’t return to the wild into breeding programmes. This way these animals have the opportunity to maintain population levels in their natural environment.

And what was also stunning is that on this day we got ‘up close and personal’ with a recuperating Golden Eagle. He was was not in the least afraid of us, in fact he danced about making threatening gestures which was fantastic and you could really witness the power of the bird.

And the next photo I am proud of. The good news is that it’s a Bonelli’s Eagle nearly ready to be returned to the wild. It just goes to show what great photographic results you can get even with limited equipment. In many ways I would say the limitation forces you to be more creative within the limits imposed upon you…


The day went on to more encounters with birds including Griffon Vultures etc. So I would like to say a big thank you to Jesús again and make sure you look him up next time you are in Almería Oz Nature


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Joya: arte + ecología / University of Aberystwyth Fine Art

Aberystwyth University

AberystwythAt the end of this March we have nine Fine Art students coming from the University of Aberystwyth for a group residency. This has been, and continues to be, an enjoyable experience for Joya: arte + ecología as well as for the student groups we have here and it is an arrangement we wish to amplify in the future.

For those outside of the UK and not familiar with the name, Aberystwyth is a university town in west central Wales (Gales) and is set in some of the most beautiful countryside in Great Britain.



Joya: arte + ecología / resident artist Rebecca Partridge

Rebecca Partridge 4

‘I intend to use my time and the space at Los Gazquez to continue my normal practice, however this setting and the philosophy of Joya: arte + ecología gives me a rare opportunity to both immerse myself in landscape and consider the deeper relationships at work between landscape, painting and mindfulness. I am currently preparing a phd research proposal, and as practice based research my main concern currently is to clearly articulate how a mindfulness practice can form a methodology in the studio. This is what I intend to work out during my residency, both through being in the landscape and producing a series of watercolours based on my experience and observation.

My work shifts between abstraction and photorealism, however each piece is essentially exploring perceptual structures whether they be internal or perceived in nature. Process is at the heart of this practice, as is a sense of dualities and time. The photoreal while normally a fleeting moment is considerably slowed by the mindful practice of painting. Equally some abstract works can be as loose and ephemeral as a zen painting. Together, although pieces appear very differently, the work makes up a network of abstract dualities, a frame work within which I can experiment and allow different things to happen’.

Rebecca Partridge


watercolour on paper

Day Trees, watercolour on paper, 100 x 80cm, 2011, 3500 euros

watercolour on paper

Rebecca Partridge  has a BA (hons) in Fine Art painting from Bath Spa University College and a Post Graduate Diploma from the Royal Academy Schools.

She divides her time between London and Berlin.




Paint Safari March

Here in the region of Los Vélez we live in a painter’s landscape. The naturally occurring forms and rhythms, pigmented earth and clear blue skies are already imbued with the rich gestural qualities of abstract modernism. The landscape invokes memories of the paintings by David Bomberg, Ivon Hitchens, Paul Nash and Georgia O’Keeffe.

And there is a drama in this space, as the sun’s shadow cuts the mountains, the tangible sense of wilderness, the sense of history, the feeling of awe, all inspire emotive responses to the landscape redolent of so many artists before us. Caspar David Friedrich, John Sel Cotman, J.M.W Turner and John Robert Cozens.

Cortijada Los Gázquez is offering the opportunity to be a painter’s pathfinder. Your guide, artist Simon Beckmann, with his intimate knowledge and love of this landscape, will take you to the special places here, places inaccessible by conventional means and unknown by any other. This is a unique opportunity to understand the sights before your eyes and to have the space and time to paint and draw them.

For although we are accustomed to separate nature and human perception into two realms, they are in fact, indivisible. Before it can ever be a repose for the senses, landscape is the work of the mind. It’s scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock.

Simon Schama ‘Landscape and Memory’

This is a creative and cultural holiday that will leave your senses stretched and fulfilled and your artwork scaling new heights.

In the morning you will be taken by Land Rover to one of the numerous, fabulous and virtually unknown locations to spend the day painting. As you ‘set up’ for the morning’s work one of our team erects the awning above the table and chairs, and prepares a delicious lunch. Afterwards you can return, uninterrupted, to your art work. Advice and tuition is at hand should you wish, otherwise you will have the time and space to explore your own creative endeavor.

Early evening will see you returning to Cortijada Los Gázquez with your days work. Here you will have the opportunity to rest, freshen up, and enjoy an evening meal amongst our small community of professional artists responding to this environment in similar ways as part of Los Gázquez’s Joya residency. Evenings are convivial and stimulating and represent an equal part in your personal growth as a landscape artist.

Paint Safari is a unique creative break and numbers are limited to a maximum of three at any one time. The price is all inclusive, with collection from the airport and carriage to Cortijada Los Gázquez eco-guest house. Here there are cool and comfortable bedrooms with attached bathrooms, an art library and large sitting room linked to a walled garden as well as fifty acres of almond orchards at your disposal.

The kitchen at Cortijada Los Gázquez creates meals from locally produced food. It’s style is simple and hearty, it’s origins migrate from India, across North Africa, through the Mediterranean and settle in Andalucía.

Clare Price TalkIn addition you can enjoy small and informal talks from our Joya: arte + ecología resident artists in the evenings and have access to their studio. They in turn will be happy to impart their knowledge and experience as artists, making, curating and exhibiting their work.

For more information contact Simon



creative course / Art Forms in Nature

AFIN April

This is an ‘applied arts’ programme where one can explore the nature of form and pattern occurring in the natural world. One then has the opportunity to consider and develop a practice of manipulating these forms in preparation for ‘applied or ‘decorative’ arts, be it for wallpaper, ceramics, furniture, graphic design, textiles, etc. The choice is yours.

Plant life, geology, climate, light, insects and more are all the traditional haunt of artists in their search for design. Consider the capital of a Corinthian column whose form is dictated by the folding leaves of the acanthus. The filleted fish bones pressed by Picasso into wet clay for a plate. The symmetry and organic form in the prints of Ernst Haeckel and his observations in nature.

Here at Los Gázquez we have an abundance of pristine nature to explore. From atop the forested or craggy slopes of the sierras down to the barrancas and ramblas in the valleys below, the gentle but fascinating study of life and physical form is a place you can draw inspiration and exercise your creative mind.

Take advantage of our ‘early bird’ discounts.



Creative Course / Exploring Contemporary Art

exploring 2dates

Exploring Contemporary Art at Cortijada Los Gázquez

Two five day summer schools in 2012

30 June – 4 July and 7 July – 11 July

Ever wondered what contemporary art is all about?

What exactly post-modernism is but were too afraid to ask?

Fancy learning something new whilst enjoying a sun-filled summer break?

‘Exploring Contemporary Art’ is a five day summer school that delves into contemporary art, why it looks the way it does and what it may all mean. Combined with fantastic Mediterranean food, twilight walks, starlight cinema and a focus on art and ecology, this summer school will equip you with the confidence to understand and ask questions of contemporary art. It takes place here at Cortijada Los Gázquez, a tranquil and stunning artists eco- retreat within a national park in the mountains of Andalucía, Spain.

Gill Nicol runs ‘lights going on’, making contemporary art accessible through talks, courses, training and workshops. Gill trained as an artist and has worked for many organisations including the Tate, Henry Moore Institute and the Ikon Gallery. Here’s what participants have said about her venture:

Most enjoyable was Gill’s approach and style of teaching. The informative, fizzy and genuine style turns two hours of talking into an enjoyable and stimulating experience.

Great delivery – passionate and engaging, but not too intellectual. – Make it longer, I wanted more!

Simon and Donna Beckmann are the directors of Cortijada Los Gázquez  creative retreat / eco-guest house and founders of Joya: arte + ecología – a residency/opportunity for artists engaged with ecology. Here is what previous guests and artists have said about them:

I don’t think that there was any point in my life when almost all my joys – art, outdoors, long walks, food, Mediterranean, peace, laughter, olive trees, soulful people and great conversations – were condensed in 12 hours a day, every day, for a week. Another one into the gratitude box’!

‘I could not have hoped for a better combination of restorative holiday and artistic challenge– I really appreciate the time they personally took to help me develop my skills and direction as an artist – and I have come away energised and inspired, and perhaps slightly chubbier from all that delicious cooking, bliss’!


Day one. Arrive, introduction to the next three days by Simon and Gill with champagne and supper with introductions.

Day two. Start bright and early after breakfast with session one 1900-1960. An introduction to Modernism, with key works from Picasso, Duchamp and Jackson Pollock, looking at Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism.

Lunch at 14.00hrs followed by siesta. Early evening walk/workshop. Evening light meal followed by The Joya: arte + ecology ’starlight cinema’ projected onto the back of the cortijada, with a focus on an artists biography. Titles to be announced.

Day three. Another fabulous breakfast followed by session two 1960-1990. A look at post-modernism, and a whole load of ‘isms’ such as Arte Povera, Conceptual Art, Minimalism, Performance and Pop Art.

Lunch at 14.00hrs followed by siesta. Early evening walk/workshop. Evening light meal followed by The Joya: arte + ecology ’starlight cinema’.

Day four. Enjoy the penultimate sun-soaked beautiful breakfast before commencing session three, the last 20 years. An in depth look at the YBA’s (young British Artists) and many other contemporary artists to understand how their work relates back to other works; how their practice reflects society and underlying themes of the last ten years. The last hour will look at 4 artists who work with the environment.

Lunch at 14.00hrs followed by siesta. Early evening walk/workshop. Evening light meal followed by Q+A  and a recap of the previous sessions. Finish the day with a party to celebrate what you have learned and shared

Day five. After breakfast leave Cortijada los Gázquez with new found confidence with contemporary art and a lot of good food inside you.

Cost: £ 500 for the summer school. This includes tuition, food and accommodation, but NOT flights.

Getting there: You can fly to Alicante, Granada, Almería or Murcia from where you can hire a car, take public transport (not Murcia) or we can arrange a taxi for you and your friends.

As an alternative, there is always the train.

Let’s suppose you are leaving a city in Northern Europe, for example London. Your destination is Granada, only an hour and a half away from Los Gázquez.

Take the lunchtime Eurostar to Paris and find a nice little restaurant there for supper. Next, take the ‘trainhotel’ overnight to Madrid.

The next morning? Well you will have plenty of time to visit one of the three big national art galleries here.

Museo del Prado – Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ for example.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – Miro, Kandinsky, Klee and all the way back to the guilded jewels of Italian and Dutch primitives.

Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia – Picasso’s Guernica.

When you have had your fill go and find some tapas on Cava Baja and then make your way to Atocha station and board the late afternoon train to Granada. It arrives just as the city comes awake at about nine thirty in the evening. Drink in some nightlife and the next morning visit the Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens.

Bursting at the seams with culture you will be ready to visit Los Gázquez for a quiet considered and creative response to the fabulous art and architecture you have just seen.

Otherwise you can fly in the knowledge that your carbon foot print for such a journey is about equivalent to a week’s stay in a conventional hotel. Here at Los Gázquez we are carbon neutral so you have more or less offset the carbon emissions of your flight completely.



Joya: arte + ecología / Aguazero Award

aguazero Kaori Homma 4

In the autumn of last year Joya: arte + ecología launched what is going to be one of four awards each year. Each award sets out an ecological agenda for artists whose practice might already conform to, or one which may inspire them to work towards, that notion. The recipient of the award receives the opportunity to take up a two week supported residency at the home of Joya: arte + ecología, Cortijada Los Gázquez.

Our first award is called Aguazero. We invited submissions in water-based medium on or with paper.

The award requested submissions to reference the contrary character of climate change. For example, increased desertification and the escalating effects of weather events such as flooding and soil erosion etc.

We asked that the work should be based on observation, experience and invention. It must be as involved with the process and materials of painting/drawing etc. as with the response to climate change.

We asked for works that invited close scrutiny and, like environmental events in the world around us, reveal themselves gradually and steadily over time, prompting reaction and renewed contemplation of the ecological challenges the world faces.

The deadline was New Years Eve and we received a lot of very good submissions that our panel of selectors spent all of January reading. Finally, we made the very difficult decision on choosing the artist we would like to invite. She is the Japanese artist Kaori Homma.

Homma’s images are not made by pigment sitting on the surface of the paper but a technique usually associated with secret correspondence used in the past, called ‘aburidashi’ in Japanese.

‘Invisible Ink made with lemon juice is used to draw images, slightly altering the delicate balance of paper, once exposed to heat, images are burnt into paper as an integral part of its structure, which are then washed through in water to rid of the trace of acidity.

The resulting image contains a level of fragility and notion of death within it by nature.

In my work the connotation of transience associated with the methodology is important as it highlights a position at the opposite end of spectrum from the monumentalism, even through the actual physicality of the drawing endures.

The importance of this notion of ephemeral has been acutely felt though the recent Japanese Nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, as it has highlighted an environmental landscape on the brink of a catastrophic paradigm change, and the fragility of our existence on this planet.

Being a Japanese artist, the above notion is no longer simply a theoretical concern but personal’.

Kaori Homma

Artist and selector Melissa Marks observed…

‘Homma’s work expresses its unique relationship to ecology and nature with a sensitive awareness of both material and idea.  The AGUAZERO awards special criteria of observation, experience and invention resonates in Homma’s project through it’s expansive view of history and current events in climate change in combination with a strong commitment to process, drawing, and interior exploration’.

We look forward to receiving Kaori Homma at Joya: arte + ecología at a date to be announced later this year.

The Aguazero award has been made possible, in no small part, by the generous support of St Jude’s limited edition prints. We would like to thank them for their generous assistance in making this award happen.

We would also like to express our gratitude for the interest and support given by all those who entered the Aguazero Award.

Should anyone be interested in supporting the Joya: arte + ecología award next time we would be grateful for a contribution towards the artists European travel expenses and in return, if you so wish, we will more than happily promote your sponsorship along with the award.