October 2017, Amsterdam- NL
Celebrated Dutch artist Titia Ex’s work is altruistic in its essence. Her dynamic, whimsical, site-specific light sculptures are carefully planned and created for public enjoyment. Her work affirms that art should be a common good, gratis and available to be experienced by all, regardless of one’s class or level of affluence. Public art is a leveler, something that has become indispensable to city life; it brings communities together giving neighborhoods a stronger sentiment of belonging and sense of identity, which jointly create a more cohesive and productive society. Public art, whether situated in urban or rural areas, systematically augments the social, cultural, and economic value of its location, and changes the way people experience their environment. A perfect example of how public art can amplify and enrich the way we interact daily with our surroundings is Titia Ex’s piece Appears@Amsterdam, where the viewer is compelled to take a deeper, more philosophical look at the presence of water within the city. By fully covering the sides of Amsterdam’s Magere Brug (“Skinny Bridge”) with a reflective material, the artist creates a spellbinding optical illusion: the bridge, which once created a visual disconnect between the river’s water and its shoreline buildings, suddenly disappears as the water and the city seem to dissolve into one another.
Public art is an age-old part of our collective history, its forms ranging from blunt displays of imperial power, such as ancient Egypt pharaoh statues, to visualizations of the symbiotic relationship between art and the state, as seen millennia later in Michelangelo’s marble statue of David, a public symbol of the Florentine Republic’s independence. However, in the 20th and 21st centuries, public art has increasingly broadened in scope and application, becoming a vehicle for the introduction of social ideas that leaves room for its viewers to draw their own conclusions. It has evolved into a more playful, interactive way for the artist and the viewer to communicate, a form of collective community expression. Interactivity is at the heart of Titia Ex’s artistic output, and is exemplified by her most recent work, Juicy Lights, where large, stylized, stainless steel bunches of grapes hang from cables over Market Street in Amsterdam. During the day, the “grapes’” reflective surfaces mirror the activity of the busy street below. At night, however, they transform into a mesmerizing display, glowing and pulsating in the dark, and showering viewers with colorful lights.
The artist explains how the observer can activate the “grapes,” a symbol of wealth and abundance, just by standing underneath them. Once activated, the grapes will release their precious “juice” in a slow drip of colorful lights. (on view from September 23, 2017 at Ten Katemarkt, Amsterdam).
Titia Ex’s powerful, engaging public art is more relevant than ever. Her dynamic, interactive light sculptures lift our spirits with sheer beauty, while at the same time, heighten our awareness and challenging us to think differently about our world.
About TITIA EX
Titia Ex is an artist whose ideas are shaped by the experience of space. This means that she rarely produces work you can look at while it is there hanging immobile on the wall. Most of the works by Ex are experienced as they arise in space. You can adopt several standpoints vis-à-vis this work, and view it from various angles, by crossing the spaces in which the artist places her work. You can think what you like about it, because she allows you the space to do this.
Much of the work by Titia Ex is made for the public space, on plazas, on and inside buildings, in the city and the landscape, in traffic, in the midst of infrastructure and gardens, next to houses and offices. The meaning of her work must therefore be sought in the relationships it enters into with the surroundings. The history of that place or specific situation is important, but also the current use of the space, the variable ways of approaching that place. Titia Ex does not select a pre-existing work from her oeuvre for these public situations, but seeks out the exigency of imbuing these spaces with a special significance. She creates a new work to achieve this.
Her style is personal and as such it is distinctive. Applying a coherent and intrinsic methodology, she employs a clear and legible visual idiom. She might, for example, use a figurative interplay of lines in neon light. This means she immediately has to overcome something in the minds of viewers, who think they are familiar with the significance of her use of materials.Neon light is used for advertising in the entertainment industry, sometimes fairly dubious in character. Titia Ex does not immediately want to nullify the attraction of this in some politically correct manner. She sooner exploits that association to create an initial uncertainty, so that her work will be looked at critically. This results in the discovery that something else is intended, something more than a straightforward image with a simple message.
Viewed from a greater distance her work looks two-dimensional. That perception is soon undermined, however, because the lines in her work often consist of shimmering light. In close-up, these lines can also be diffracted three-dimensionally, and take on a different guise. The work moves around the viewer, it has a front and a rear, sometimes dissolving in a side-view and reappearing once you have passed it by. Two- and three-dimensional manifestations alternate. The agile and playful visual idiom employed by Ex is captivating and simultaneously slightly disturbing. After all, a light beacon in the distance is usually also a warning, a signal. Watch out for what you are about to encounter.
Her oeuvre now encompasses dozens of monumental works. It is difficult to gain a coherent overview, because these works stand dispersed at numerous locations across the Netherlands. This website is probably the most suitable way to provide an overview, bringing together several works in documentary form. However, it is primarily something to experience and perceive. Despite the usually straightforward vocabulary, in her work you find yourself in a visual maze of visual associations. There is no escape: it disappears in front of your eyes, because you no longer need an exit. It is a rich idiom. You play a film in your mind’s eye, making a montage of the images provided by Titia Ex that results in a coherent narrative for you personally. Anyone who sees the work of Ex can make sense of it for themselves by looking actively. Experience the work and be absorbed into its domain, its atmosphere.