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Olga Titus' secret garden

A vivid, blooming, shimmering world – Olga Titus’ solo exhibition at the Helvetia Art Foyer beckons visitors into a mysterious and magical garden landscape until 30 September 2021.

12 august 2021, text: Mirjam Arnold, photo: Olga Titus, video: Helvetia

Visitors to the Helvetia Art Foyer in Basel currently find themselves entering a vibrant oasis right in the city centre. Flowers, blossoms, leaves and trees intertwine in a sea of colour that fills the room. The “Guardians of the Garden” exhibition is based on a video made by Olga Titus last winter. In it she creates an animated garden cosmos that evokes associations with mysterious Arcadian gardens.

Welcome to another world

“The huge windows [of the Helvetia Art Foyer] flood the room with light [...]. This quickly gave me the idea of creating a large-scale, almost room-sized, installation using wallpapers,” explains Olga Titus. She had the wallpapers printed with stills from her “Guardians” video. When visitors enter the exhibition room, they feel as though they have been transported into another world. This effect is enhanced through pictures made out of double-sided sequins and then hung on the wallpaper-covered walls, creating a whole new shimmering dimension. The overall impression could even be described as a fertile soil from which new works spring.

Olga Titus’ digital easel

The richly coloured garden landscape at the Helvetia Art Foyer recalls Claude Monet's impressionist paintings and his garden at Giverny. Flowers, blossoms, trees, leaves – all flow into each other. Olga Titus regards her method of creating these digitally generated worlds as similar to painting: “I made the video [“Guardians”] during the process. It often made me feel like Claude Monet [...] standing at an easel in the wonderful garden at Giverny.”

Yet impressionism is not Olga Titus’ only inspiration. She is also intrigued by the “pixel-like” quality of pointillism, with its background “noise” which the material elements of her video art – pixels – incorporate and explore. Her video deliberately pushes these creative approaches to the very edge.

Analogue and digital pixels

In her solo exhibition, Olga Titus employs pixels in more than just her videos. A “pixel-like” quality is seen in analogue form in her sequin works, which have the special appeal of the small scale and pixellated. The sequins are different on each side. This means that a second and as yet unknown world lies hidden behind each image. As the artist draws her hand across the sequins, turning some of them over, she creates a new work. This fluid transition from one image to another means that an incredible number and variety of impressions lie ready to be discovered between the two pictures initially conceived. These unlimited possibilities are reflected in the scale of Olga Titus’ fantastical garden cosmos.

Conversant with many media

Olga Titus’ first major solo exhibition in Basel demonstrates the broad range of her artistic creativity. She describes herself as a multi-media artist. Working with many different media, she uses appropriate techniques to bring her ideas to fulfilment. Videos and moving images are two key elements of her work and therefore have a central part to play in the “Guardians of the Garden” exhibition. The artist, who is a Swiss citizen, takes on a huge variety of roles when making her videos: “I’m mostly the scriptwriter, director, editor, actor, costume designer, make-up artist and camera operator, all rolled into one.”

Olga Titus’ ever-blooming garden may be visited whatever the weather, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday afternoon until 30 September 2021.

Key dates for the “Guardians of the Garden” exhibition

23 June 2021 to 30 September 2021
Thursdays only, 4:00–8:00 pm

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.