Artist Hermien van der Merwe is fascinated by Cape fynbos plants.
Living at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, Hermien is embraced by inspiration for her work. She regularly walks along the nearby mountain paths in the Table Mountain Nature Reserve, absorbing her surroundings with all her senses.
“I see buds appear, flowers open and seeds form as the seasons change. I smell the foliage and feel the mountain air against my skin. I pause at interesting leaves and cones – feeling their textures,” says Hermien.
It’s in this walking, seeing, touching, breathing in… that Hermien observes the interaction between fire, drought, and rain on Cape fynbos. And it’s in her brush strokes, paint drips, and lino markings that she narrates this story. Working in a wide range of art mediums, Hermien hopes to raise awareness for fynbos and preserve it for future generations – preferably as a living, adaptable biome but also immortalized in art.
Hermien focuses on the connection between heaven and earth — where heaven meets earth. She is constantly exploring the parallel between the physical and the spiritual, as she engages with nature as creation.
“During the time in my studio, I surround myself with plant inspiration and a variety of art materials. It is here that I search for deeper meaning in my subject: Do we, as humans, not also go through fire to shape our character – to flower in the next season? Do we not also go through drought to appreciate the abundance – that provision or rain brings? Are we not also, like fynbos, dependent on rain – dependent on a Higher hand to provide for our needs? May new provision replenish us like rain does the fynbos plants.”
The colours she uses in her art are predominantly green and blue, symbolising the new life brought forth by water/rain. Hermien regularly uses vertical lines in backgrounds to depict rain. She often cuts vertical lines on her lino blocks or uses gravity to drip diluted oil paint – the liquid finding its way downward, much like rain.
Hermien enjoys using mono printing as art making medium. These mono prints are made using actual plants and a homemade jelly slab. She uses printers’ ink and a roller to print the plants directly onto paper, and her body as printing press.
Lino printing is another medium she loves. While cutting into the lino with her carving tools, Hermien finds similarities between fynbos and human beings. As humans, we too, must sometimes undergo a process of cutting away to ultimately show our true beauty. Fynbos, likewise, gets scorched by field fires, to produce new life and a better flowering season.
Hermien also works in oil paint and mixed media collages. She uses embroidery stitches like French knots and cross stitches to hold the pieces of the collage together.
“While I am creating art, I am always listening to the still voice within me – searching deeper for the spiritual meaning in the subjects I love and whispering this into my art,” says Hermien. “I weave words and visual elements into my works – often hidden to the naked eye. I trust that my artworks will whisper hope and light into the homes of their new owners.”
University of Stellenbosch
Advanced Painting Course
Ruth Prowse School of Art
Group exhibition: “Growth”; Welgemeend, Cape Town
Group exhibition: “Quiddity” Daor Contemporary Art Gallery; Curated by Kerry Red; Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town
Solo exhibition: “Shelter in the Shadow”, Welgemeend, Cape Town
Group exhibition: “Subsurface Scattering”, Curated by Clare Menck; Gallery One11, Loop Street, Cape Town
Group exhibition: “Natura Botanica Terrarum”, Gallery One11, Cape Town
Group exhibition: “Fynbos en die emmer obsessie”, Welgemeend, Cape Town
Solo exhibition: “Let it Rain”, The Old Agricultural Hall, Stellenbosch
Group exhibition: “What we need is here”, Welgemeend, Cape Town
Strauss & Co. group exhibition: “Boundaries” South African women artists over the past 100 years; Welgemeend, Cape Town
Solo exhibition: “Come Fire, Come Rain”, Welgemeend, Cape Town
Solo exhibition: “Composing Art”, Welgemeend, Cape Town
Solo exhibition, “Flower where you are planted” Rust-and-Vrede art gallery, Durbanville, Cape Town
2013 – 2014
Annual group exhibition: Rust-en-Vrede Art Gallery, Durbanville, Cape Town
New Signatures group exhibition: Alice Art Gallery, Johannesburg
Zivaglo light show, Woordfest, Stellenbosch
Group exhibition: Rust-and-Vrede art gallery, Durbanville, Cape Town
2008 – 2009
Annual group exhibition: The Mill, Philadelphia, Cape Town
2005 – 2007
Annual solo exhibition: KKNK, Oudtshoorn