Needle and Thread


Strijdom van der Merwe

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Exhibition statement

With increasing ecological changes, our planet is calling for humanity to reconnect with it. The needle and thread, a seemingly mundane human invention, is used here to depict the human element. They call on humanity to repair the wounds we have inflicted on the earth. The viewer can imagine themselves compassionately stitching earth back together.

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Strijdom van der Merwe
Needle and Thread
Stainless steel and neon flex
250 x 250 x 45 cm
R 75 000

In collaboration with Melanie van der Merwe.
As exhibited at Spier Light Art Festival 2020.

Needle and Thread  forms part of the landscape as it blends in with the natural surroundings, and as you stroll through the garden you cannot help but notice the very bright, neon red thread, drawing you closer.

As you approach the work you become aware of a giant stainless steel needle that has been stitched through the earth. Standing in front of the work, you are confronted with a long and deep scar that has been inflicted on the earth. You then become aware of how the red thread stiches in continuous circular patterns through this scar, in an effort to heal the wound. What was earlier a bright glowing light in the distance has now become an acute awareness of the environmental statement. The stitching together of the earth is a visual, artistic interpretation calling the observer to heal the scars that we have imprinted on the earth.


Artist’s profile

Strijdom van der Merwe grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. He obtained a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Stellenbosch in 1984 and furthered his studies at Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Utrecht, Holland where he studied print-making; The Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, Czech Republic; and at The Kent Institute of Art & Design in Canterbury, England. He has worked full-time as an artist since 1996. 

As a land artist he uses the materials provided by the chosen site. His sculptural forms take shape in relation to the landscape. It is a process of working with the natural world, using sand, water, wood, rocks etc. He shapes these elements into geometrical forms that interact with their environment, continually changing until their final probable destruction. He observes the fragility of beauty, while not lamenting its passing. What remains is a photographic image, a fragment of time and ultimately, the imagination. While a visual record is materially all that is left, he also leaves behind a reminder of the capacity, however feeble, of an individual to alter the universe by embracing the ceaseless changing of nature, actively contributing to it and, in doing so, moderating and beautifying the outcome.

Van der Merwe is at the forefront of environmentalism in art and creates work that resonates with the meditative silence found in the natural world. A shamanic-like connection with the patterns and spirit of the natural world is revealed in his work. This reverence for the environment is often playful and humorous, and delights the eye with the way he uses simple manipulations of materials to create something quite unexpected.

Strijdom van der Merwe

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