Thursday, November 1, 2012


Land Art by Strijdom van der Merwe - Rocks on sticks in water

Interview with Strijdom van der Merwe

Chelsea Amor Lotz wrote a perspective or review of Eco Art at the end of September. For October her contribution is an interview with renowned and respected South African sculptor and land artist Strijdom van der Merwe! As artist he's traveled widely, participated in Biennials and art festivals in several other countries and continents, and also makes substantial contributions to the local art scene, especially in Stellenbosch where's he's currently based. Without further ado, let's jump right in and read what he has to say about Land Art and the motivation behind his art:

Amor: What inspired you to do land art?

Strijdom: The constant discovery of unknown places and landscapes and materials to work with. To be exposed to the ever changing climate and weather and to be part of the cycles of nature.

Land Art - wire on a rock outcropping in a landscape, by Strijdom van der Merwe

Amor:  How long have you been doing land art for?

Strijdom: I have been working full time as a land artist since 1995, but one can argue that I have been discovering and exploring it since my days as a young boy on the farm where i grew up.

Amor:  What interests you most, about the concept of land art?

Strijdom: That you work outside the gallery space and that you are only bound by the rules and regulations of nature. Very important that most of the works exist because of there surrounding areas. The land is not a setting for the work but a part of the work. you learn to look wider and appreciate the interaction between many things.

Artwork made during an artist residency and land art festival, by land artist Strijdom van der Merwe

Amor: Can you please tell us more about your most recent piece of land art?

Strijdom: The most recent large scale work was done for the Tulbagh Art Festival. We wrapped several hundred of renoster bush in red fabric on Gageheuwel just outside of town.The reason for doing that is because it was the Spring Festival and Galgeheuwel is well known for all the flowers and bulbs that bloom that time of the year. This work was to make people more aware of the blooming of colour that last only for n few weeks before the change into summer. It was a celebration of the short lived beauty of colour. This work enhanced the fact that nature is ever changing. The red fabric was dismantle after three days.

Strijdom van der Merwe
Tulbagh, Western Cape, South Africa
August 2012

more images on Land Art SA

Amor:  How do you see land art as relevant to the connection between man and nature?

Strijdom: We are nature. We are in the danger of losing our balance with nature. No matter how sophisticated we become, we are still part of the cycles of nature. Land art strengthens that connection and reminds us of our close connection. It also makes us aware of the dangers of not living sensitive towards the resources we have. We can't keep on taking, we have to learn to share.

Circle made by sweeping or removing fallen leaves on a lawn, by Strijdom van der Merwe

Amor:  Which landscapes do you find the most inspiring?

Strijdom: The semi desert areas of the Karoo I have always found inspiring, it's like a blank canvas. But the most surprising is always the most unexpected landscapes. That is what makes land art so wonderful, you can sit in your studio and decide what to do, you have to walk the studio of your canvas to be inspired and only thén the creativity will follow.

Amor:  What is your 'dream piece'?

Strijdom: Always the next one. As a creative person you are always busy exploring, even when you're busy with one work, the ideas of the new better work have already taken place in your mind. And so it becomes a vicious circle of never ending discovery. What a blessing.

Art installation in a natural landscape or forest

Amor:  Do you try to portray particular messages and meanings through your land art?

Strijdom: It depends from work to work. But in general, no, I don't go out to make a statement. I will always first let the forces of nature influence me, and what is created is a result of the site. But, when it comes to certain art festivals or commissions then you have an obligation towards the client and people - most of the time a certain theme has to be addressed. Recently I had an art work installation at the Circa gallery in Johannesburg where I made a statement against 'fracking' in the Karoo, because I felt it was necessary that by working in the landscape and having a close relationship with the landscape, you have to raise your voice in protest.

Commissioned artwork or installation art by Strijdom van der Merwe in South Africa of a field of yellow hands

Amor:  Do you see yourself still doing land art, in 20 years time?

Strijdom: Yes, I guess that will be he case, the format may change and the scale of the work may change but the message may still be the same.

Amor:  What advice do you have for artists seeking to experiment with, and explore the medium of land through art?

Strijdom: This is no easy road. You have to learn the basics of art, going through all the disciplines of colour use, balance, perspective etc. Once you have an educated understanding of the history of art, and nature and human interaction, only then will you be able to create work that is a true and honest reflection of the site and understanding of our relationship with nature. To put 10 stones in a line to end up as an artwork is a life time of knowledge and sensitive observation. But the rewards are greater than any painting that hangs on a wall.

Strijdom van der Merwe's work is included in many private and public art collections. His work can be seen on his website and featured on He is an integral part as artist, founder and committee member of South Africa’s first international Land Art event, entitled Site_Specific. Two beautiful coffee table books of Strijdom's art is published and available from:

Sculpting the Land - | Exclusive Books
Sculpting the Earth - | Exclusive Books


Chelsea Amor Lotz is a mother, model, humanitarian, entrepreneur, professional writer & author, living for the evolution in consciousness.

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