Berlin Studio Visit with Olivia Botha

Artist Olivia Botha is three months into her year-long residency at DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, after completing a two-month residency for artists from Africa in France. Leipzig, where I stay, is only an hour and a half by train from Berlin, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to visit Olivia’s beautiful studio. She had recently returned from a two week visit to Paris to see the opening at Palais de Tokyo where a little work was showing as part of the Moleskine Foundation see her Moleskine book here. When one is in Europe, travelling to neighbouring countries is so convenient! Unfortunately, half of her trip was spent isolating in a hotel due to contracting Covid. But she managed some art seeing and exciting interactions, one being a coffee with well-known arts writer and curator Simon Njami. 

After spending a day touring museums with Anna-Louise Rolland, founder of the Leipzig International Arts (LIA) residency programme, and the residency group, I met up with Olivia at the old central Berlin Tempelhof airfield, now including an Art Museum, for dinner and a catch-up. The residency has supplied her with a lovely apartment and its charming surroundings, including a baby grand piano, in a beautiful part of Berlin near Schöneberg.  

Her studio is in a neighbouring building about 500m from her apartment. The studio is in a shared workspace so she has contact with other artists, designers and creatives. At LIA there are usually 4-5 artists at the studio’s residences and provides connections and activity suggestions through Nicolo, the local LIA Operations Manager, and Anna-Louise doing tours and studio visits and constantly arranging artists and interesting people to meet with. The DAAD residency participants operate more independently and perhaps have more privacy than the LIA residency programme.  

Olivia showed me that she is working on a series of drawings on paper made with oil sticks in addition to some larger paintings. She explained that she wanted to work with something from life, and the works are inspired by a vase of flowers brought to the studio from her flat. The imagery refers back to her experience of being in the Covid lockdown in Cape Town – waiting to go on her residencies in Europe and drawing in the garden. Perhaps there is also a yearning for blue skies and spring in relation to the greyness that is typically the Berlin city in winter. 

What is exciting to see in Olivia’s work is this action of drawing with oil sticks which appear in her paintings as a drawn mark. Olivia mentioned that this connection to drawing emerged more prominently after her monotype making experience at David Krut Workshops DKW in 2020. 

As Europe heads into spring, we are excited to keep up with what Olivia produces during her time in Berlin.  

Take a look at Olivia’s most recent solo project with David Krut Projects titled Caught which was an exhibition of paintings and unique prints, which showed in Johannesburg the David Krut Project space in 2021 

Read more about Olivia’s monotype making here

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