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“Enjoy the Silence” in the Helvetia Art Foyer

Calm and silence are the catchwords of the Helvetia Art Foyer’s current exhibition. The diverse works by Swiss artists approach the subject in many different ways. Whether desert images, pictures of water phenomena or works employing abstract forms, all the exhibits invite you to pause a minute and immerse yourself in the art and your own inner feelings.

29 January 2021, text: Mirjam Arnold, photo: Viktor Kolibàl, video: Helvetia

“Enjoy the Silence” is an invitation to leave behind the frenetic pace and noise of everyday life for one timeless moment. In our daily lives we have to get to grips with globalization and digitalization, rapid technological progress and the growing pace of social change. Time has become a luxury. The new exhibition in the Helvetia Art Foyer transports us beyond the hyperactivity of our quotidian lives with their distractions and diversions, allowing us to get to know artworks that either exude calm themselves or deal with the subject of silence – in a wide variety of ways.

Unexpected colour

In his two-part photographic work “Makhtesh Ramon I et II”, Claudio Moser shows the nature reserve around one of the world’s biggest erosion cirques (or steephead valleys), which is located in Israel’s Negev Desert. As the two photographs have been hung in a slightly offset manner, the line of the horizon appears to be uninterrupted, not only underscoring that the pictures belong together, but also engendering an additional element of calm. The intense and lurid yellow colour catches the eye and captures the observer’s attention. At the same time, the artist succeeds in expressing calm. Far removed from the hubbub of modern civilization, deserts are among the quietest places on Earth.

View of the exhibition with works by Cécile Wick, Claudio Moser and Uwe Wittwer (from right to left)

Clear lines – interpretive titles

Matias Spescha’s work “Meditation” gets by with far fewer colours. The focus is on squares in grey and black tones. If you concentrate on the picture, the abstract composition comprising three rectangles turns into a landscape, with an object visible on the horizon, or alternatively an interior with an opening from which light floods in. The surface of the picture turns into a calm open space that you can enter and spend time in – in your mind. It’s a good starting point for doing what the title of the picture suggests.

View of the exhibition showing Matias Spescha’s work “Meditation” (1966)

“Parallel Attractor II” by Michael Biberstein is separated into two parts by a clear and prominent dividing line. The title of the work is borrowed from astrophysics. On the left we see a bank of clouds, from the upper part of which a diffuse light emanates. Going by the work’s title, we can interpret the light as the unfathomable spatial and temporal dimensions of the universe. The observer sees dark and turbulent clouds of fog with no firm contours and divines behind them an area of transfigured calm. In this context, the right-hand side of the picture is reminiscent of a black hole. The panel is made of a jet black wool fabric on a stretcher frame. The effect is of something that devours all light.

View of the exhibition showing two works by Michael Biberstein (left: “Parallel Attractor II”)

Blurred memories

By contrast, Uwe Wittwer’s small-format paintings have very few clear contours. They are notable for their fuzziness and darker tones. Yet the artist’s message is not one of sadness and melancholy, but memories. Remembering also involves taking a moment to pause. The landscapes we see – woods, bodies of water and the sky – are from photos that evoke personal memories for Uwe Wittwer.

Water as an element of silence?

Some of the works featured the exhibition focus on water as an element of nature. One photograph from Julian Charrière’s “Where Waters Meet” series shows a free-diver in a water cave in Mexico, offering a unique view of the woman in her habitual environment. The water surrounding the diver isolates her from the outside world, enveloping her in calm and quiet. Pictures such as “Distinction 1” by Giacomo Santiago Rogado and “Enjoy the Silence”, or “Meer 2” and “Fluss VI” by Cécile Wick, show different perspectives on water.

View of the exhibition showing “Distinction 1” (2017) by Giacomo Santiago Rogado

Swiss diversity

As this brief overview of just some of the pictures underscores, the exhibition is a diverse collection of artworks with a link to calm and silence. “Enjoy the Silence” also includes two works by Mili Jäggi and another picture by Michael Biberstein. Mireille Gros approaches the theme with two very different drawings, one that reminds us of jungle vines, another of a garden meadow. Ugo Rondinone, on the other hand, transports the visitor into space and, with a bronze candle, back to the everyday world. The sculpture evokes melancholy, with the extinguished flame symbolizing a life already spent.Principales informations sur l’exposition «Enjoy the Silence».

Key information on the “Enjoy the Silence” exhibition

3 December 2020 till 6 May 2021
Thursdays only, 4:00–8:00 pm (The Helvetia Art Foyer will be able to reopen from 1 March 2021 due to the relaxation of the Federal Council's COVID measures.)
Helvetia Art Foyer, Steinengraben 25, 4051 Basel
Admission is free

A broad commitment to art

The changing exhibitions in the Art Foyer provide insights into the Helvetia Art Collection. With over 1,800 works by some 400 artists, it is one of the most important collections of contemporary Swiss art. Every year, three to four exhibitions are held that afford artists an opportunity to present their works to the public at large. Helvetia insures art, but also has a broad commitment to art itself. That also includes the Helvetia Art Prize, which assists young artists embarking on their careers.