Dirk Meerkotter (1922-)

Artwork by Dirk Meerkotter

Dirk Meerkotter was born in Pietersburg (Polokwane) in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province) on the 9th of February 1922. When he was two years old his family moved to Ermelo and three years later to Johannesburg. Both his parents were musicians. His mother, a South African from British decent, met his father in Amsterdam, where they studied music. In 1911, soon after their studies, the young Dutch musician decided to follow his heart and emigrated to South Africa where he got married to his former fellow student, Caroline Ackland. Although the artist’s father was a great pianist and organist, he often had to move from one town to another in the early 1900s to find work as a church organist and music teacher, to support his family.

In spite of the fact that it was not easy to make a living with music, Dirk’s parents influenced the lives of many through the sharing of their talents as music teachers. Dirk Meerkotter, who inherited this creative talent from his parents, started developing an interest in the visual arts in his early twenties.

Dirk Meerkotter’s contribution to the visual arts continues to receive a significant amount of recognition. Although this recognition is obviously an outcome of the unique qualities of his work, there is another side to the story. He demonstrated a remarkable sense of the importance of hard work and an artist’s responsibility to share his or her ideas openly with others. In addition to this, one should acknowledge the courage that it takes to go public with work, which could very well challenge the public beyond popular understandings and views about the nature of the visual arts, or music, or poetry.

Dirk Meerkotter presented his work and ideas to the public in a remarkable eighty-seven solo art exhibitions across South Africa and Namibia between 1951 and 2009. He also participated in many group exhibitions in Southern Africa, Europe, Latin America and in the USA. Meerkotter, in addition, received invitations and participated in the Florence and Sao Paulo Biennales in the seventies.

In 1992 Dirk Meerkotter received a prestigious award from the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organisations. And, in 2001, he was awarded an honorary medal from the South African Association for Science and Art for his extraordinary contribution to the visual arts.

Over the years, the connection between Dirk’s brilliant and unique improvisations on the piano and the forms, colours and shapes in his studio, became increasingly obvious to his family and many of his friends. My brothers, sister and I often recall the many nights that we fell asleep accompanied by the sound coming from his piano in the lounge. And, to this day, he still finds it difficult to walk past a keyboard without playing a few lines, to say the least.

The combination of the talents inherited from his parents, and his life and work as a contemporary South African visual artist, remains fascinating to the many who continue to enjoy their engagement with his ideas on canvas, in clay, and on paper.

Please click here for images of artwork by Dirk Meerkotter