Chrisél van der Merwe was born in 1994 in South Africa. She received her BA(FA) Fine Arts degree with distinction from the University of Pretoria in 2016. She has been a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society since 2014. Van der Merwe has been represented on numerous exhibitions, including 2013’s ‘Hidden Urban Histories’ at the University of Pretoria, and on the 2016 ‘TEMPO’ exhibition in the Eduardo Villa Museum. Van der Merwe was selected for the Sasol New Signatures Exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2016 and in 2017. In 2017, Van der Merwe was chosen to participate in the Peer Mentoring Program and ‘Fresh Produce’ exhibition at the Turbine Art Fair and one of her paintings were chosen to be a part of John-Anthony Boerma’s 30 selected works to be exhibited at the Innibos’s ‘My XXX’ exhibition. She works predominantly in painting and printmaking and is inspired by the histories that the surfaces tell about urban space.
It is the surfaces in the city that interest me most. I draw inspiration from the textures and colours found in the decay of structures, in the cryptic messages from torn and faded posters and graffiti and in the constant flux of the city
In my artistic practice, I deal with the experience of embodiment through the interrogation of the surface of a work of art. The marks applied to the surface by the artist become a record of the state of the mind of the artist when they made the work. Drawing from theorists like human physiologist Prof V Gallese, art historian D Freedberg, and neurologist Dr. VS Ramachandran, my art explores how the mirror neuron system and embodied simulation constitute the empathetic engagement that a viewer has with a work of art.
I find this empathetic engagement manifesting in myself when I am walking through the city of Johannesburg. It is the surfaces in the city that interest me most. I draw inspiration from the textures and colours found in the decay of structures, in the cryptic messages from torn and faded posters and graffiti and in the constant flux of the city. I am fascinated by the layers of hidden histories and secrets that the city holds in the walls of deteriorating buildings, on the concrete floors, and underneath the many bridges where the people leave their mark daily. In this fluent urban context, renewal and erosion are concurrent themes in my prints and paintings.
In the process of creating work, I use my understanding of a neuropsychological approach to art-making and art of appreciation in order to utilize the mirror neuron system of the viewer to allow them to engage with the work through observing the goal-directed movements, scratches and brush strokes visible on the surface of the work. I intend for the building up and scraping down process of the painting to represent the constant cycle of construction and demolition of the city. When viewing the final work, I always try to leave clues in the work that allows the viewer some insight into the process.
Exhibitions at ODA
group exhibition, Nov 2017