“Redefining Paradise”: An Interview with Aragorn Dick-Read
He’s been commissioned to create eye-catching works for the likes of Richard Branson and the Chinese Government, but BVI-based artist Aragorn Dick-Read has no plans on slowing down. Next in his sights are the superyacht visitors who descend on the British Virgin Islands each year.
From his studio nestled amid the lush vegetation of Beef Island, located to the east of Tortola, Dick-Read has been a renowned figure on the local and international arts scene for many years, exhibiting at distinguished venues across the world. His endeavours have also extended beyond the realm of art, including hosting exclusive Full Moon Parties and, most recently, opening an Organic Farm that offers provisions for superyachts.
We spoke to the Tortola-born artist to find out more about his career, inspirations and hopes of providing his unique products, services and experiences to the growing number of superyacht owners and charters expected to visit the BVI over the coming years.
Superyachts.com: Can you start by giving us some background to your career as an artist?
Aragorn Dick-Read: I’ve been making art all my life. I studied a little bit in the UK at a time when the arts scene was really being encouraged and eventually went to Norwich University to study the history of art. By the time I left, I had my hands in all kind of artisanal pursuits so I came home to the BVI and set up a little gallery and studio in the bush.
Can visitors actually buy art there?
Yes, they can. We have a range of pieces on show that can be bought and taken away. We’re right in Trellis Bay, where a lot of the big yachts anchor to pick-up and drop-off guests because it’s near the airport, so we’re ideally located for yachting visitors to pop by.
Are most of your customers locals or tourists?
It’s mostly tourists who buy the t-shirts and arts and crafts, but I’ve also made a lot of art for villas and private homes around the islands. I’ve notched a few nice clients; I did a big fireball sculpture for Richard Branson last year and also done work for various other wealthy tycoons.
I was also commissioned to make a great big fireball by the Chinese government a few years ago. It was a 14ft ball that was put into a big sculpture park in north-east China.
How much is your work inspired by the natural beauty of the BVI?
The landscape is stunningly beautiful but more often my inspiration is in trying to expose the weaknesses in the environment here. Development comes with a heavy cost. For example, in my lifetime 90% of the BVIs’ mangroves have been destroyed, which is pretty harsh. A lot of my work is trying to redefine the paradise mythology that draws a lot of people here. I try to tell people that paradise is a good idea but it’s also fragile. If you can help people re-understand, it’s important I think.
What can you tell us about Good Moon Farm?
I’ve always been close to the earth and traditional means of producing food throughout my childhood. But over the years it’s become blatantly obvious that the agriculture situation here has been in rapid demise. So I’ve been growing food on my small bit of land, but also networking a small group of farmers, fisherman and poultry…anyone that’s producing anything, really. And now I supply to the marine industry through an online ordering system too.
How have you got the word out about that service?
It gets out steadily. The superyacht sector is a very small group of people so you speak to a few good chefs and give them good service and then the word spreads pretty rapidly. It’s also part of the global trend in elite food circles to supply guests and clients local and preferably organic food.
We’re also doing some exclusive events, such as farm to table dinners and private dining on the beach, offering strictly local and quite often vegan and raw meals. To name drop, we did a two-dinner series for the owner of Wholefoods, John Mackey, so he’s become a strong supporter and good mentor in the industry as you might imagine.
Do you offer any other services that are popular with the yachting fraternity?
The one I haven't mentioned is our Full Moon Parties. They’ve become a big national tourist attraction, merging my sculpture work with full-blown entertainment. We burn the fireballs on the water then we offer traditional Moko Jumbies, as we call it, which are dances on big stilts. We dance up and down the beach surrounding the fireballs. That is a big attraction and definitely one we’d like to get more captains and yachting visitors aware of, because it’s a truly unique experience.