Leuchtende Farben

Joie de Vivre Hans-Joachim Müller:

Creation has never really been finished. The seven-day plan could never be adhered to. As soon as the man stood on two legs, the woman was missing. And then the end of the day was over again. And because there is always something to make up, the centre of creation has also passed on the responsibility for creation to art. And since then, the argument has been about who is more successful, evolution or the sculptor Claire Ochsner, who cultivates a little garden of paradise in Frenkendorf in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, where the whims of creation peek so joyfully over the walls that one immediately becomes envious of neighbours and passers-by. It is in this magical place that the works are created that also enchant people in Riehen, just opposite the Fondation Beyeler.

Not that the colourful population only felt at home outside. But outside, in the garden park, between beds and bushes, on the edge of paths and on small ledges, that’s where they really feel at home. And that is where it is at home, where the species can be recognised from afar by its brightly coloured costumes and softly flowing silhouettes, where it can act a little proud with its slender body and stretch out and curl up its supple limbs like antennae. It is gymnastics and dancing on the fine line between the organic and inorganic world.

The forms seem unoriginated and at the same time familiar. One seems to be formed from cone and cube, the other from fruit and plug root. None in which the welded shells could not also be leaves, none in which wings, tails and legs could not just as easily come from the geometric as from the vegetative repertoire. Some have more body, others more ornament. Some are reminiscent of an insect, others of a figure, here more of a bird, there more of a plant, a jellyfish, an octopus that must have just crawled out of the water and is spreading out its wreath of arms as if in a receiving position. They stand still or move gently in the wind, rotate with the sun and do well under a blue sky and no less well under the snow caps that winter puts on them, and come into their own when the clouds hang low and the days remain grey, and they are truly the only ones who do not lose their colouristic cheerfulness.

They are all marvellous artists, top dancers, virtuoso balancers, peacock-wheel performers, gravity mockers, balance artists, good-humoured creatures, light-handed deniers of the straight line, masters of the snake travesty, stick figures with heads shaped like hearts and arms that curl up into curly tails and snails. And they are all quick-change artists, like the mythical sea god and seal keeper Proteus, who you could never really get close to because he had already slipped into another form with lust and skill.

Things are similar in Claire Ochsner’s realm. Once you’ve spent some time there and looked around, you discover all sorts of similarities, but the variations and mutations are just as striking. Let’s put it this way: the most cheerful utilisation of the creative powers imaginable. The species cheerfully reproduces itself, and the species that reproduces itself cheerfully reminds us of the hanging spiral, which seems infinite to us because we cannot decide whether it is turning upwards or downwards, because we can only watch as it always seems to keep turning. A realm of art without struggle and competition, in which the things of art cultivate a friendly neighbourhood in radiant this-worldliness and luminous vitality and are far too busy pleasing themselves to cast proud or even envious glances at one another.

That is rare in a work. And it is also a bit precious. And this is probably only possible because the choreography is called “Joie de vivre”, for which the artist has called on her sometimes more graceful, sometimes more muscular ballet dancers. The piece is truly an old piece and an everlasting piece. And there is an old and everlasting picture to go with it.

Matisse painted it over a hundred years ago, painted everything he knew about the “joie de vivre”, how he imagined the joy of life. People are making love in an earthly paradise and flowers are being picked and music is being played and people are dancing, and a stable high stands over the Mediterranean, making it a pleasure. But the stage is far away, and the tall trees not only provide shade but also shield, and there is not much invitation to mingle with the distant people of pleasure, and certainly no encouragement.

It is rather unlikely that we will ever make it to the distant shore. And that is the difference to the stable high above the Paradiesgärtlein in Riehen. Claire Ochsner’s work exudes a wonderful closeness. For her, “joie de vivre” means participation, not exclusivity. There is never a forced form, never a surface other than flatteringly smooth, no workpiece that is not freed of all edges, no tip that does not curl up into a volute, no volume that does not round out into cosy bellies and slim down into elegant necks, no curve that does not play out its dynamism with relish: how else to describe it than sheer grace, grace without pathos? You are never faced with difficult riddles when you mingle with the joie-de-vivre performers made of aluminium and painted polyester. You don’t need a degree or a licence to start a conversation with them. Their idiom is not a foreign idiom. And their way of opening up a conversation with us is precisely a way of awakening and vitalising original language possibilities in us. Because what they speak to, what they echo, has always been in us – only it has sunk there, overgrown by everyday chatter, buried under the use of life that is called reality.

It is not forbidden to discover the wishful formulas and dream images and signs of longing in the colourful population. What you will not discover, however, are the sighs that are usually heard when the wishful formulas, dream images and signs of longing come to themselves. Grace without melancholy is itself astonishing. As astonishing as the whole colourful population. As if their descendants had landed softly from the top of the train or had just slipped out of the water with a splash and had straightened up a little for an inviting, encouraging astonishment. Everything about them looks easy, nothing like hard-won artistry. They can just do it, stand on one thin leg without getting tired, and they can manoeuvre the crescent moon above the trees on their tentacled arms, and it’s as if the moon puts up with that too.

So they stand there in their little garden of paradise, free as they are. Free as fools, pranksters and carnival revellers are. You can imagine many stories of freedom, sublime, combative, heroic. But the most beautiful are the ones that tell of the freedom of creative responsibility.

Hans-Joachim Müller, art historian, Freiburg DE

The Zurich-born sculptor Claire Ochsner has discovered new and at the same time traditional ways of expressing joie de vivre in her art with bright colours and a lightness of form. As with the modern artists of the past, such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Klee, etc., her art speaks of the line as a rhythm that she has discovered in nature, and she paints it in bright, sun-drenched colours, sky blues and vibrant reds as a celebration of the joy of living.

The artist’s fertile imagination has created mobiles and sculptures that convey the feeling of graceful dancing forms, poetic and musical allusions that contain universal symbols through circular shapes from nature. The universe is perceived by Claire Ochsner as a circle, as a symbol of infinity, as the sun, as the life-giving energy of light and love.

Shapes are dominant motifs in her floor and water sculptures; playful and recurring motifs that run through Claire Ochsner’s entire oeuvre. At the centre of Claire Ochsner’s work is a respect for nature and its motifs, which she discovers in her fertile mind.

The artist is fascinated by the question of how the elements of nature – wind, water, air – can create new potential forms and harmonies in sculpture and how these can simultaneously become part of the movement to create a three-dimensional space. Nature remains the starting point for all her works. Her fountain sculptures are aesthetic studies of form and balance, merging with the rhythm of water as art and energy, often in conjunction with solar-powered elements. The circle and its derivative, the spiral, are fundamental to Ochsner’s exploration of line as three-dimensional space. This exploration simultaneously includes the exploration of space through the arabesque, semicircle and spiral, each of which become opposing expressions of concentric and eccentric space. The artist has understood the potential of the line to express both outer and inner space; the energy of the line as an enclosing and releasing energy in space, the spatial dynamic as conceived in the sculptures of the Italian futurist sculptor Boccioni at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Ochsner’s art is a direct heir to the modernist experiments of the twentieth century in France and Switzerland. Her semi-biomorphic forms are reminiscent of the early works of Arp, but her paintings avoid pure abstraction and instead ensure that reality is preserved. Her sculptures create new forms, fascinating transformations of nature, humorous and playful metamorphoses full of wit.

Ochsner’s violin-shaped sculptures are reminiscent of Picasso’s interest in questioning representational reality by allowing the viewer to read the object on several levels of meaning. The bright red/purple coloured violins are transformed into female figures and faces, revealing different personality types.

The circle, the spiral conjure up new forms and through them new images in the viewer’s imagination; they represent fish/women/amphorae, poets/robins, sun/flowers, birds/clowns; polyster sculptures, all painted in bright, waterproof colours, inspired by and often against Mother Nature.

Ochsner’s sculptures are imbued with a childlike delight in pure colour and simplicity of form; words and humour remain a central theme in all her works. The artist’s mobiles are reminiscent of the playful forms and themes of Calder and confirm Ochsner’s fundamental philosophy in her work. She says: “I am always looking for a certain lightness of floating art.” The viewer is reminded of some of Klee’s poetic metamorphoses and the use of colour and motifs, such as red circles/dots against a bright blue background sky.

Both Ochsner and Niki de Saint Phalle owe their decorative forms and colours to Gaudi’s fantastic shapes. However, the menacing gigantomania and surrealist tendencies in de Saint Phalle’s sculptures, such as her water sculpture in the fountain of the Beaubourg Museum in Paris, are transformed by Ochsner into playful, benign objects that recall happy childhood experiences and reflect life and nature.

Claire Ochsner’s art creates a new dialogue with past artistic traditions while giving us a unique insight into the artist’s fertile imagination. In today’s world, which is often full of unsettling moments, her art allows the viewer to pause and participate in a visual, poetic celebration of the joy of life.

The creation of Claire Ochsner’s sculptures:

The artist’s works gradually emerge from sketches of ideas. The pencil lines are usually followed by realisations in colour, still two-dimensional on paper. This is the work step that the artist herself describes as “the search for the right form”. What decides “right” or “wrong” is more a gut feeling than a rational decision.

When the artist provides insight into this part of the process, she uses expressions such as “striving upwards – harmoniously balanced, floating, lively, new”. These words then feel “right” and help the form to reach perfection in its development.

Soon, however, three-dimensional models develop (for large projects and sculptures), or the form is realised directly in reality. This is where diligent helpers start their work. When cutting out sweeping shapes from thick aluminium sheet for wind chimes, for example, or when welding together steel structures for the inner framework of a sculpture.

A mixed team of craftsmen is involved in the process of creating a work of art. Mechanics, metalworkers, engineers and car painters work hand in hand. And right in the middle of it all – omnipresent and relentlessly striving for perfection – is the artist, who keeps a watchful eye on everything and lends a hand with everything.

Once the basic framework, the skeleton of a sculpture, has been welded and covered with a solid polyester coat, it is polished for a long time and with great care. During this creative phase, clouds of dust swirl through the workshop like wafts of mist. As the workers sand, they appear like snowmen covered in light-coloured dust.

The surface of the sculpture must be completely perfect; Claire Ochsner will not tolerate any scratches or indentations.

Only then is it given a coat of white paint and ready for its coat of colour. This step is reserved for the artist alone. With the colour concept already firmly anchored in her mind, she sets to work. This does not mean that deviations or changes are not allowed. The creative process is never straightforward, never constant. It is a game with the moment, which is subject to constant change. The colours used cannot be surpassed in their directness. Red, blue, yellow, orange, green. In ever-changing compositions, these colours create a new image each time. They are dabbed and shaded directly onto the sculpture with a brush. The speed and confidence with which the artist wields the brush is astonishing. It is as if Claire Ochsner is capturing, concentrating and holding on to the dream, the concept and the moment with the paint – powerfully, willingly, finally and honestly.

Biography Claire Ochsner

After completing a degree in mathematics, she devoted herself exclusively to the visual arts. She studied at the art academies in Zurich, Amsterdam and Basel. Initially she produced paintings, prints and children’s books. This was followed by small and large sculptures and mobiles. She is a member of the professional association visarte and was a member of the art commission of the canton of Baselland from 2007-2014.

Claire Ochsner lives and works in the centre of her fantasy world in Frenkendorf near Basel. Claire Ochsner works with skilled craftsmen in several studios. The sculptures are made of metal and fibreglass-reinforced polyester, stainless ball bearings and weather-resistant paints.

In 2015, she opened the Claire Ochsner Artists’ House in Riehen, directly opposite the Fondation Beyeler. While Claire Ochsner will initially exhibit her works at the Künstlerhaus, exhibitions will also be organised together with selected guest artists. Other cultural events such as concerts, guided tours and workshops will expand the cultural programme. Since November 2023, the site has also been home to the GMT Galerie Marc Triebold.

Claire Ochsner’s artistic work focuses on large, colourful sculptures that often move or spout water using renewable energy such as wind and solar power. They are unmistakable with their bright colours, organic forms and movements.

Solo exhibitions (selection)

all year round:

Künstlerhaus Riehen, BS (since 2015), opposite the Fondation Beyeler, open Wed – Sun: 11.00 – 18.00 hrs

Sculpture Garden Frenkendorf, BL (since 1995) open every Friday from 4 – 6 pm

2019 Floating Donnas – enchanted women, Künstlerhaus, Riehen

2018 The golden star, Künstlerhaus, Riehe ; Abstract, Künstlerhaus, Riehen

2017 Hast du einen Vogel?, Künstlerhaus, Riehen Kinetik, with H-M. Kissel, Künstlerhaus, Riehen Floating art, Künstlerhaus, Riehen

2016 Magic colours, Künstlerhaus, Riehen Art and nature, Künstlerhaus, Riehen Colorful Black, with Alexander Heil, Riehen

2015 moving sculptures, Künstlerhaus, Riehen dancing mythical creatures, Künstlerhaus, Riehen

2014 Art and nature, Old Botanical Garden Zurich

Sculptures in the church district, Bremgarten AG

2013 Gallery Burgwerk, The world is colourful, Riiehen

Claire Ochsner à Sornetan, Sornetan

2012 Three Countries Garden, Weil am Rhein – DE

Have you got a bird? Colours in autumn

2011 University Hospital Ulm, D

6 Room for Art Reinach, BL “Fireworks of Colours”

2010 Château de Divonne, “rêves et couleurs”, Divonne, F

Solbad, Muttenz on the banks of the Rhine

Brombacher Design (bath without corners) 2004-2010

2009 Schleswig-Holstein House, Cathedral and Old Town, Cultural Forum of the City, Schwerin –

2008 Exhibition in the sculpture garden, Frenkendorf 2007 Lungolago & Collegio Papio, Ascona, Kongresshaus, FineArt, Zurich, Im Tenn 20, Muttenz

Works in public space and in companies

2019 Rotallaa (400x160x160 cm) 7-part mobile, Gare Paris Saint-Lazare

Princess Amata (120x70x70 cm) Wind chime, grave of Dr K.H. Karl Eberle, Stetten cemetery, Lörrach D

The Juggler (282x160x160 cm) wind chime, and

Duetti (153x98x60 cm) wind chime, and

Roludus (125x76x61 cm) Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, Zermatt

Yes (60 x 33 x 18 cm) Dr Karl Eberle Foundation for State University Baden-Württemberg, Lörrach, DE

2018 Joblu (290 x 160 x 143 cm) Nägelin Foundation, Pratteln, BL

Morondo (300 x 200 x 100 cm) Municipality of Frenkendorf, roundabout Frenkendorf, BL

Serpente magico (146 x 262 x 105) Garden Paradiso, Cavallino-Treporti, IT

Tria (70 x 40 x 40 cm),

coloured star, (43 x 37 x 35 cm) Lindenhofspital, Bern, BE Mobiles 2017 Poet (400 x 250 x 225 cm), Schwerzenbach near Zurich, CH

verso il cielo 7-part mural, theme of death, façade 470 x 530 cm, Crematorio Locarnese, Riazzino, CH

Heureke (370 x 205 x130cm), Crematorio Locarnese, Riazzino, CH 2016 Duetto im Mondschein (54x45x21cm) University of Constance, D

2015 Stabile (460x185x180cm), in front of Dr Schiller’s practice

Schaffhauserplatz, Zurich, CH

Rotilli (230x140x135cm) Mobile, 3-part, Clientis Zürcher Regionalbank, Uster, CH

Spirossa (275x198x148cm) Wind chime, 2 movements in the wind University Children’s Hospital Basel UKBB, Basel, CH

2014 Rotollo (265x160x160cm) Mobile, 3-part, Eben Ezer – accompanied living in old age, Frenkendorf, CH

Mister Spirovski (124x61x61cm) Wind chime, BL art collection Ospispi (110x58x58cm) Mobile, 2-part, Acaba art collection (306x200x130cm) Kreisel, Männedorf ZH (until Nov 14) Wama (143x97x34cm) Dr Wartmann’s practice, Lenzburg, CH

2013 Roblu (122x69x69cm) Wind chimes, Centre de Sornetan

Amphitti (220x120x67cm) and

Morollo (71x43x21cm) and

oiseau exotique au clair de lune (75x50cm) Bank Valiant Delémont

Airollo (209x118x118cm) wind chime, 2 movements,

Eben Ezer- accompanied living in old age, Frenkendorf, CH

Mondpost (334x225x81cm) Letterbox sculpture, 2 movements in the wind, Samedan CH

2012 Spiru (41x43x12cm) Wall object, Cantonal Psychiatric Service Basel-Land, Liestal, CH

2011 Ulumba (170×305 cm) Wall relief, 2-part

Radiotherapy, University Hospital Ulm, D 2010 Windiki (255 x 195 x 125 cm ) Wind chime

Haecky Import Group, Reinach

Irixa (230x135x135 cm) 6-part mobile Irix, Sofrware Engineering, Basel

Volito (200×300 cm) 5-part mural

Entrance hall upper school Russikon, ZH

Kukuma (270x160x160 cm) Lörrach, D

2009 Acaboo (350x220x165 cm) Binningen Kronenplatz Grügrü (45x45x45 cm) Wind chimes, Hörnli cemetery, Riehen Vogilara (39×27 cm) Cham – Zug cemetery

Three princesses (200x150x150 cm each) Lörrach, D

Fiorollo (192x230x180 cm) Spitex Luterbach SO

Gogolfo (235x310x138 cm) Wilihof Golf Club, Luterbach SO 2008 Spiralicos (480x200x190cm) Wind sculpture, Davos Hospital

Sole Allegro (210x155x76 cm) Water sculpture, Kursaal BE Donna Solvita (500x250x250 cm) Wind sculpture, Urdorf near ZH Colour concept for apartment building, Schwerzenbach, ZH

2007 Aira (178x104x104cm), wind chime, Ascona

Kuguru (220x158x45cm), water sculpture, Gersau, Lake Lucerne

Blurollo (105x105x56cm), wind chime in a ring, Muttenz

Calamara (345x242x197cm), Schulthess Klinik Zurich 2006 Angel Aurora (158 x 84 x 77 cm), Reinach BL

Drehbile (400x350x350 cm), Cantonal Hospital, Liestal BL

Svana (238x173x90 cm), School for Guide Dogs for the Blind,

Allschwil BL

la femme bleue (251x88x33 cm), Dr Martin Wechsler AG, Aesch BL

Kugulla and Spirulla (43x43x43 cm and 89x80x50 cm), water sculptures, Cantonal Hospital, Liestal BL

2005 Naxos and Nixi (243x146x106 cm and 320x136x125 cm), Milan S.A., Geneva Meyrin

Red Wave (35x52x25 cm), Mayenfels Castle, Pratteln BL

Occhillo (230x100x100 cm), Frei Augenoptik, Riehen BL

2004 Svanesco (226x174x85 cm), E+H Sandton, South Africa

Spirullu (200x125x105 cm), E+H Suzhou, China

Bath without corners (240x400x350 cm), Brombacher Design, Liestal BL

Spirillo (212x193x150 cm), sculpture, Lonza Basel

Yellow and red rolling ball, 2 canvases each 146 x 115 cm,

Lonza Basel

la femme soleil (77x33x23 cm), Eben-Ezer Frenkendorf BL Bench (238x154x130 cm), Rehaklinik, Rheinfelden AG Amphora (195x58x39 cm), E+H Istanbul, Turkey Palmona (258x152x152 cm), E+H Toronto, Canada Donna Windica Enziana (520x200x200 cm), Wetzikon ZH

2003 Die Begegnung (335x220x150 cm), E+H, Reinach BL Amphitta (230x112x58 cm), Rehaklinik, Rheinfelden AG Donna Windica mit Blume (465x185x185 cm), Park ‘Im Grünen’ Münchenstein, Basel, Switzerland

Green’ Park, Münchenstein, Basel

Les amoureux (335x220x150 cm), Schulthess Clinic, Zurich

Spirotto (318x190x115 cm), water sculpture, E+H, Waldheim near Dresden, Germany

Bird of Paradise (160x120x74 cm), Wylihof, Luterbach SO

Kurigu (103x71x71 cm), wind-moving sculpture, Frenkenbündten retirement home, Liestal BL

Ospiralla (240x160x160 cm), mobile, Holbeinhof Basel

Lindensonne (180x86x86 cm), mobile, Lindenhof Group – Nursing School BE

Woman with the laughing and the crying heart

(225x90x37 cm), Hotel St. Gotthard Basel

2002 Sun mobile (125x146x140 cm), Frenkendorf community centre

Spirella (285x194x194 cm), E+H, Huningue, F

Tiger’s Eye (225x150x150 cm), Mobile, Reinhardt Verlag Basel

Water sculptures Fantagua (320x140x130 cm) with Magic Ball, Magic Horn, Magic Twist and two flying fish, Sonnweid Hospital, Wetzikon Zurich

Donna grande (600x270x270 cm), Deitingen SO

2001 Scharalla (130x160x160 cm), Mobile, E+H, Reinach BL

Die Begegnung (260x110x90 cm), retirement home Frenkendorf Füllinsdorf BL

Sunbeam (350x130x130 cm), wind chime, Brütsch kindergarten, Dornach SO

Donna Windica from Paris (500x200x200 cm), E+H, Maulburg, D Schaukelfritz (180x180x65 cm), Wylihof, Luterbach SO Sunbeam (135x95x95 cm), Mobile, Cantonal Hospital

Liestal, BL

Donna Windica in red (420x210x210 cm), Wylihof, Luterbach SO

Spirilli (285x194x194 cm), Chalet Erika retirement and nursing home, Burgdorf BE

2000 Kugoberg (380x245x245 cm), E+H, Aurangabad India

The dancing giraffe (250x155x95 cm), E+H, Nesselwang, Germany

Bird of Paradise (180x126x95 cm), E+H, Naarden, NL

Angel (245x120x190 cm), Lüdin Sofortdruck, Liestal BL

Bird Clown (270x160x160 cm), BHF Bank Zurich Vogilara in Red (265x150x150 cm), Zurichberg Residential Home Blue Birds of Paradise (59x50x43 cm), Cemetery

Gottesacker, Riehen Basel

1999 Giraffalla (250x160x95 cm), sculpture in water,

Head office Zuger Kantonalbank Zug

Stabile (460x185x180 cm), Forum Medicorum, windbewegt Turicensium, Freiestrasse Zurich (until 2014)

Solara Wolkenquirl (750x350x350 cm), Stadthalle and Schlossgarten Osnabrück, Germany

Stabilo windbewegt (520x180x180 cm), Kantonsspital Interlaken Begegnung (110x60x60 cm), Mobile, Gemeindehaus Reinach BL 8 paintings Psychiatrische Klinik Liestal BL, 4th floor

1998 Couple (painting 240×150 cm), Synthes, Winterthur,

Facade (900×1200 cm), enamel mural, Davos Hospital 1997 3 stable wind-moved, (600 to 750 cm high) wind-moved

for 3 school buildings in Frenkendorf (Egg), Pratteln (Erlimatt), Bottmingen (Burggarten) BL

1996 Solarika (620x250x360 cm), Kunstpfad University, (Oberer

Eselsberg), Ulm

Spiral tree (220x140x90 cm), Stratec Medical entrance, Oberdorf BL

1994 6 sunbirds for climbing and sliding

-1999 (250x350x250 cm) in Basel, Pratteln, Liestal, Dittingen, Binningen, Reinach BL

1994 Diorama Crater Landscapes (290×850 cm), Staatl. Museum

for Natural History in Stuttgart for Steinheim, D

Portrait Government Councillor W. Spitteler, (98×57 cm), Government Building Liestal BL

1992 Oballara (500x130x130 cm), Mobile, Kunstsammlung Stadt ZH 1991 Birsaue Panorama (315x1600cm), BUVAL, today Schweiz.

Society for the White Stork, Altreu

The dragon of Beatenberg (220x330x160 cm), village square 1990 8 dragons and 2 water dragons for climbing and

-1994 Slides with children’s house in the belly (535x1000x480cm), in

Liestal, Zug, Baar, Beatushöhle, Oberwil BL, Biel Mett, Lausanne Préverenges, Dielsdorf, Renens VD

1990 Landscape panoramas (approx. 300×800 cm), several in 3 halls

Halls for “Fossilised dinosaurs from China” in the Natural History Museum Basel