ABOUT CAROLINE VAN DER MERWE
Caroline van der Merwe, born in Iringa, Tanzania (Africa), 1933 Studied at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, (Michaelis School of Art) Taught sculpture at the Cape Town Art Centre and to the blind at the Touch Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa Lives and works in Pietrasanta, Italy since 1983.
Started my career as a sculptress in the 60′s carving simple bird and fish forms much influenzed by Brancusi. As I gained in confidence I started to carve rather abstracted female forms mostly inspired by drawings I had done from models. Now my influence was mostly Henry Moore. In 1976 I travelled to Carrara, Italy to learn to use pneumatic tools and worked for three month learning more about carving marble from the wonderful craftsmen that work there. From then I and my husband went on an extensive tour of America, me to look at contemporary art and it was here and in Italy that I was glad to realize, that figurative art was not the dead dodo that I had been lead to believe. We returned home to find South Africa at the height of the Apartheid unrest and violence and I knew that my beautiful abstracted female forms no longer had any relevance in the prevailing climate.
I started my second period using the male figures with his strong muscles and tendons. The work became more figurative and I started to bind the figures with bindings that came from within the figure, to crucify with the figure and crossforming a single unite, and to constrain and confine the figure in many different ways.
In 1983 I came to live and work in Pietrasanta / Italy where for the first time I started to work in bronze. I found this medium very suitable for what I was trying to express. I worked with the male figure in both marble and bronze fornearly 20 years and towards the end of this period I realized that the tension was no longer there, that the bindings had loosened and in some case had even become wings. I then knew that I had to move on.
I started my third period going back to my female drawings. Modelling in clay, models for marble, bronzes and terracotta. Now the figures were no longer abstracted and my desire was to make beautiful serene sculptures seeking a perfect fusion of idea, three dimensional design and material used to realize the sculpture.
Sculptress born in Africa, with an inspirational vocation for the harmony of ancient classic sculpture, yet gifted with a modern sensitivity directed mostly towards the female metaphor. Caroline van der Merwe combines her many inspirations and fuses them into sculptures of a high plastic quality placing her among the most important internationally renowned sculptors. From her endearing inflated marble pigeons and the slim figures that recall the Etruscan ” Ombra della Sera “, to the more monumental and splendid female busts, Caroline, in the smooth, solid, raw material, affixes the seal of beauty’s redemption on the eternal values of life.