My evening with the artist…Jacques Van der Merwe

Witches II & IV: from the immigration seriesWhen was the last time you stopped to think of how far you had come? What changes life had dealt you and how you managed to move forward?

During our Preview evening, I had a moment like that – quite unexpectedly. Everyone was beginning to swarm around these amazingly detailed sculptures that had just been placed on the centre table. All I heard was “Jacques Van der Merwe’s works” and thought I should move closer…after all, I was documenting the evening for our social media outlets.

The first thing that struck me was the obvious struggle in the face and the body’s defensive form in both sculptures – I could almost feel the pain but what was that reaction to? Late in the evening, Jacques stood up in front of the crowd and explained that Witches II & IV from the immigration series was inspired by his immigration to Australia from South Africa. A journey I could relate to, having lived in the US for 30 years before moving to Australia.

There are four sculptures in the series and it is the progression of an individual adjusting to new culture, country, etc. The excitement and the freshness of a new life in a new country and then reality begins to set in. For me, it was the reality that it was costly (before Skype) to call my friends, that I generally forgot the change in time zones or that I would be missing weddings, births and deaths of people who marked my life story…my memories of the past…my history.

Through the adjustments, learning the differences (and similarities) of your new home – you begin to emerge from this taken back, scared and confused inner battle (reflected quite vividly in Jacques’ work) and you find your way. You may not always feel “settled” and you will always miss your past, but you are free to start your future in your gorgeous new home – mine being Australia.

It is not that you do not love your new country – it is the rebirth of yourself in a new location that can sometimes be the most confronting.

See Jacques Van der Merwe at #Swell 2012.


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