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Saturday, April 13, 2024
For longtime NOTL artist, gardens offer inspiration
A photo of Magdalena Titian, who wanders town on her daily walks. Supplied

Florals are her muse as Magdalena Titian wanders town on daily walks


Almost every afternoon for the last 40 years, Magdalena Titian has wandered around town, picking her favourite routes along the lake, up King Street and back home to her little house on Gate Street.

“(The walking) concludes my day properly,” says Titian, who will only admit to being in her 80s.

“I like it.”

Titian uses her walks, in part, as inspiration for her passion.

She is an artist.

For close to 50 years, she has painted professionally in almost every corner of the world.

“I’ve had an incredible career. I painted everywhere. Gosh, I painted in Egypt. And I painted in Mexico and the U.S. southwest. Across Canada. South America. Italy.”

But most of her recent work brings to life on canvas the NOTL flowers she sees on her walks.

“My floral work is all from local gardens,” says Titian. “I study and appreciate the beauty of nature. The fine detail.”

Near the turn of the last century, Titian’s grandparents left Romania, immigrating to a small western town, just north of the highway between Winnipeg and Saskatoon, near Manitoba’s western border. They answered an appeal from Canada to help settle the west.

“I was artistic from a very early age,” she says. “Because I grew up in the Prairies, there was nothing there. Just sky and wild things. Such a delight to walk along those country roads.”

“I was deeply interested in the forms of nature. My grandmother was artistic. It was that intense introduction to colour and form that registered with me. I feel it in my throat. It was so exciting.”

In the early 1940s her family moved east to Hamilton looking for work.

It was in Grade 4, she thinks, that an art teacher recognized and nurtured Titian’s artistic talent.

“My art teacher displayed my paintings in our classroom. Was that a boost to my ego!”

After high school in Hamilton, Titian attended art classes at McMaster University, Sheridan College and the Ontario College of Art.

Fast-forward through a couple of decades of travelling and painting and marrying and child-rearing.

It was 1976, Titian was living in Burlington.

“I started doing painting florals at the Royal Botanical Gardens,” she says.

“Just for enjoyment. I became fascinated by the irises. I liked to paint in the garden. I used to go very early in the morning to avoid the heat.”

One day, the president of the RBG, after noticing her dedication, offered her an exhibition there.

“It was a really big and very important exhibit of my work. That’s what gave me the inspiration to go full steam ahead.”

Titian’s solo and group exhibition career blossomed, including showings in galleries across Ontario and beyond.

Sometime in the 1980s (“I think it was 1988 or maybe ‘86”) Titian came to Niagara-on-the-Lake to show her works at the behest of a local art dealer.

“When I was here, I went for a casual evening walk around town,” she remembers. “Walked by this little house with a cardboard sign — House for Sale. I knocked on the door and I bought the house.”

“It felt so right for me.” 

Just like that, she left a thriving art studio — painting, marketing and framing — in the Rosedale area of Toronto.

“I have been here all these years and I have not thought about moving, ever.”

On her arrival, Titian immediately jumped into the local arts scene, participating in the earliest Pumphouse Art Centre outdoor art shows, long before the building was updated.

It was Barbara Ahluwalia, an early leader in the revitalization and transformation of the Pumphouse, who invited Titian to teach at the fledgling organization.

“It was wonderful. There were mice and cracked windows and water leaking from an upstairs bathroom. The pump was still in the front room. We had fun.”

Titian has begun to slow down. Still travelling, but not as much for painting.

“I love my little house. But it is a lot of work for me now and I’d like to have a simpler life. Lighten my load.”

“Then I would like to travel more. I’ve got Croatia on my mind.”

There’s a sparkle in her eye when she talks of travelling.

Titian describes two roadblocks to achieving her future vision.

First, she needs to find a new home for her personal collection. It’s everywhere, in every room of her home and her downstairs studio. She hopes to sell her remaining pieces in the coming months.

Second, she needs to find a smaller, simpler place to live.

“We need an apartment building in town,” she almost begs. “Or something that an older person can manage. I want an apartment in town.”

“I’ve been here for a long time. The older generation needs to be listened to,” she says, and there’s both passion and frustration in her voice and determination in her eyes.

“People need to realize that they, too, are going to get to a point in life where they are not going to want to maintain a house and grounds and everything. There’s no place to go.”

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