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Reds Family Affair: An Exhibition by Celeste van der Merwe

Reds Family Affair: An Exhibition by Celeste van der Merwe


Launch Date: Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Venue: DUT Art Gallery, above Alan Pittendrigh Library, Steve Biko Campus
Time: 6.30pm
Public viewing: 18-31 January 2011
Gallery hours: 8:30am to 3.30pm

Durban University of Technology’s Art Gallery is proud to host the work of Celeste van der Merwe, a Fine Art Master’s student. The exhibition will feature a collection of work which was completed over three years. Her study includes a combination of image and script and is titled, “The relationship between image and script in the work of Celeste van der Merwe, Willem Boshoff and Barbara Kruger.” The script is not always intended to be legible and is often in an unknown language or veiled with marks, strokes or lines.

This body of work reads like a catalogue of pain suffered by teenagers juxtaposed with a Redemptive Series and a mixed media painting called Redemption depicting deliverance from dark circumstances, hope for a better future and restoration.

The collection addresses the ordeal teenagers suffer as a result of dysfunctional family system and draws on layers of real life stories. In her work van der Merwe explores the relationship between script and image.

She said her intention was to create an environment of empathy where the viewer can identify with the teenagers pain and suffering. Her work identifies with teenagers who questions when they became the parent in the relationship and is inspired by statements like, “My mother discussed suicide with me as though it was a family decision.”

Van der Merwe said: “The primary aim of my art is to address social issues as well as to facilitate the beginning of healing in teenagers and between teenagers and parents. My collection is based on Little Red Riding Hood, an allegory by the Grimm Brothers. I believe that allegories act as windows into the sub-conscious and are able to cut to the essence of the human psyche. The young girl in Little Red Riding Hood was sent on a mission by a mother despite prowling wolves while her father is absent.

This scenario represents a global phenomenon and Little Red Riding Hood has been translated into more than 47 languages. International names of Little Red Riding Hood have been embroidered on the Cape and scroll across the screen in the movie called RED, the movie clip. I wrote my own allegory called Red’s Family Affair and depicted phrases from it in The Story Series.”

Van der Merwe’s pieces are heartfelt, authentic and passionate and many are based on drawings made by suffering youth. The Child’s Picture Book was inspired by a journal of a pre-teen. Red is bold and its intensity is dominant in her work. It also signifies love, pain, covenant and redemption. The exhibition uses limited palette resulting in uniformity and continuity.

Van der Merwe’s Master’s study has challenged her to push the boundaries of her work while simultaneously allowing her to enjoy the process of producing art. “I enjoy the freedom of using mixed media and use anything I think is suited to the work, ranging from henna to beeswax or shoe polish. My work is tactile and includes a great variety of textures.

By deconstructing and transforming materials I experience a new found freedom and am able to flow intuitively. This process of deconstruction and rebuilding is a reflection of the breakdown and restoration in Red’s life. As a woman I derive pleasure from sewing, crocheting, embroidery and enjoy the fine flowing threads that hang from my art,” she said.

For more information and images, please contact:
Nathi Gumede
DUT Art Gallery Curator
Office: 031 373 2207
Mobile: 082 220 0368

Artist: Celeste van der Merwe can be reached on 079 495 7700.