Meet St Lucia artist Eileen van der Merwe

The beautiful colours and rich textures of Eileen van der Merwe's work, hint at the nomadic life she lived as wife of a geologist.

Eileen spent many years overseas before returning home. She was born in Cape Town in 1966 and qualified from Stellenbosch University with an Honours degree in African Studies. After 25 years abroad accompanying her husband Philip through various countries in Africa and the Middle East she has returned to South Africa. She now lives in the small village of St Lucia on the north coast of Kwa Zulu-Natal. Except for taking art as a subject in high school, Eileen is self taught and continues to play as well as challenge herself and develop her artistic skills.

I would be lost without my art. It brings me joy. It is the simple process of creating something from an idea that stimulates me and encourages me to try different mediums and subject matter, and fulfills me as both an artist and a person.” – Eileen van der Merwe

Her work gives the viewer a glimpse into the sights and vibrant cultures she encountered during her extensive travels, often far off the tourist's map.

The rich monochromatic desert colours, the vibrancy of tropical flowers, landscapes, portraiture, playing with the idea of painting modern versions of the icons she discovered in Georgia, as well as some rather unusual commissions outside her usual genre all communicate her passion for art and experimenting with the artistic process. Each place she has lived in comes with its own struggles and adjustments, sights, sounds, smells, textures, peoples, and culture. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Painting is her way of getting to know her new environment and helps her cope with the challenges and adjustments that arise from her nomadic lifestyle.

Her love of flowers is a recurring theme in her art which she explores in a variety of mediums, but it is her unique Impasto technique with a palette knife, that especially makes her flowers 'sing'. Quality finishing and mastery of her chosen medium are also trademarks of her work.

Eileen generously shares her knowledge and skills with her students as a private tutor and through workshops. Eileen is an active member of KWAS, (KwaZulu-Natal Art Society) through which the fast growing St Lucia and northern KZN art community support and inspire each other, promote the arts in the area and inspire creativity in visitors to the region.

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