The Artist’s Residency: Exploring Joshua Tree with Dylan Gebbia Richards
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The Artist’s Residency: Exploring Joshua Tree with Dylan Gebbia Richards

Dylan Gebbia-Richards gains his inspiration from the vastness of the natural world and his artworks explore aesthetics that merge between the microscopic and macroscopic. In anticipation of his debut solo show at Unit London, we caught up with Dylan in Joshua Tree, where he recently undertook a 6-week residency.

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most magical yet bizarre places on America’s West Coast. Located where two distinct desert ecosystems meet, the Mojave and the Colorado, Joshua Tree is unique not only for its abundance of totally spikey Joshua trees, a species of the Yucca genus, but also for its refreshing distance from the light pollution of nearby cities. Hauntingly beautiful and secluded from the bustle of modern life; Joshua Tree is the perfect place for an artist’s residency.

Joshua Tree National Park, 2019

After travelling up a winding offroad sand-track towards the border of the national park, we arrived at a hidden warren of creative activity: the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency to meet the paint-splattered Dylan Gebbia Richards. Over 6-feet tall and with a gentle generosity of spirit, Dylan showed us around the residency, where he had spent the previous 6 weeks working in almost total solitude. A modern-day polymath, Dylan is masterful in his ability to weave his diverse and deep interests, be it contemporary art, freestyle skiing or Environmental Studies, into his artworks. 

Dylan Gebbia Richards, 2019

The past few years have been incredibly busy for Dylan Gebbia Richards. Inspired by fractals - or the ‘expanding symmetry’  seen at all scales in the patterns of the natural world, from river deltas down to the microscopic arrangements of veins in our body - Dylan has created a number of colossal organic wax sculptures which pay homage to these observable patterns. His works, with their technicolour palette, create an inviting synthetic environment which delight, disorientate and ultimately consume the viewer. Dylan sees his studio as an organic microclimate, where he carefully orchestrates, but ultimately does not control the reactions that produce the intricate patterns in his artworks.

Dylan Gebbia Richards, Omni, 2018

The Residency

Walking into Dylan’s residency space felt like the crossroads between an abstract expressionist studio and a science experiment. His recent works rattle with a sense of artistic freedom - clearly inspired by his time at the residency. Dylan reflects. "I was truly amazed by the landscape when I first came to Joshua Tree. I had been wanting to go there for years and was especially interested in making art there. The rock formations, flora and fauna are obviously incredible but there is also a really unique energy about the place. The Native Americans that used to live there called it a "vortex" or area of coalescing energy and you can really feel that high frequency where you are there."

Away from the chaos of city-life, and being surrounded by such an unusual natural setting, Dylan used his time in Joshua Tree as a place to quietly experiment.

“The longer the residency progressed the more my work became tied to the specific landscape of Joshua Tree. I spent the residency developing my aluminum casting technique. The castings I made were of the landscape itself. The desert washes, and the water which runs through them, form veins in the sand and soil which initially caught my eye after a few storms sent waves of floodwater through the front yard of where I was staying. I was mesmerized by the detail in the washes and the seamless way the natural patterns interconnected...

Over the course of the residency, my aluminum work followed the flow of the river itself, down into a dry lake bed which the region's rivers drain into. There I found drying a cracking clay and the castings I did there over the following days became a catalogue for the progressively drying soil. Initially, the aluminium did not penetrate far down into the soil because the earth was still wet and had not yet cracked but after a few more days the cracks had widened and I got much more deep pieces from the exact same sections of the lake bed."

Over the course of the residency, my aluminum work followed the flow of the river itself, down into a dry lake bed which the region's rivers drain into. There I found drying a cracking clay and the castings I did there over the following days became a catalogue for the progressively drying soil. Initially, the aluminium did not penetrate far down into the soil because the earth was still wet and had not yet cracked but after a few more days the cracks had widened and I got much more deep pieces from the exact same sections of the lake bed."

Away from the chaos of city-life, and being surrounded by such an unusual natural setting, Dylan used his time in Joshua Tree as a place to quietly experiment.

“The longer the residency progressed the more my work became tied to the specific landscape of Joshua Tree. I spent the residency developing my aluminum casting technique. The castings I made were of the landscape itself. The desert washes, and the water which runs through them, form veins in the sand and soil which initially caught my eye after a few storms sent waves of floodwater through the front yard of where I was staying. I was mesmerized by the detail in the washes and the seamless way the natural patterns interconnected...

How do you melt aluminium without industrial equipment I hear you ask? With wifi connection, access to Youtube tutorials, a supermarket nearby, and of course, an insatiable thirst to experiment. Dylan showed us one of his experiments during his visit, and we were amazed by the speed of the process - he melts, pours and casts the metal within a matter of minutes.

"I am definitely planning on continuing my aluminium work in Colorado. I was interested in using aluminium because it is a material which I can essentially recycle myself. While in Joshua tree I got all the aluminium I used initially from used soda cans and then later from a scrap yard. I like being able to take something which has been discarded and turn it into art. But I also don't like conventional 'trash art.' I didn't want the fact that the aluminium came from cans and old bed frames to be part of its actual aesthetic in any way."



Dylan's aluminium smelting equipment, 2018

Dylan Gebbia Richard's highly anticipated solo show with Unit London opens in Autumn 2019.  He will showcase a variety of stunning large scale wax sculptures and a selection of the works produced on his residency. 

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