Hentie van der Merwe lives and works in Darling. He divides his time between his studio and doing product development for the Darling Sweet brand of toffees and caramels that he and his partner Frits van Ryneveld started. Van der Merwe was born in Windhoek, Namibia and studied Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand where he obtained both his BA and MA degrees. Between 2000 and 2002 he attended the Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK) in Antwerp and in 2001 the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, USA. He has held many solo exhibitions both in South Africa and in Europe as well as taking part in numerous group exhibitions both in South Africa and internationally, some of which were curated by acclaimed international curators such as Jan Hoet (My Private Heroes, MARTa Herford, Germany, 2005) and Okwui Enwezor (Snap Judgements: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Center of Photography, New York, 2006). He won the prize for best visual artist at the BIG Torino 2002 International Biennale of Young Art in Italy, curated by Michelangelo Pistoletto and, in 2008, the Sasol Wax Art Award for professional South African artists.
As Tracy Murinik writes: “At the core of much of Hentie van der Merwe’s work is the body: its power, vulnerability, sexuality, objectification; its memory and its concealment; its capacity for violence or intimacy; the body as it exists or is represented publicly and privately, symbolically and commercially. And central to his process is a rummaging through archives from which he roots out details: reflections on predominantly the masculine body, followed by the recontextualisation of that which is uncovered. Van der Merwe’s work also engages a biographical perspective: exploring his own relationship to his historical context, having grown up in an Afrikaans family in then South West Africa, and the perceptions of (assumed/prescribed) masculinity that accompanied that cultural environment.”
In his work there is an ongoing interest in the body, particularly the male body, in relation to the archive. The archive as that which defines the body, both as a political and sexual being. The archive then becomes the site where these terms by which the body gets defined are investigated, challenged, interrogated – not in order to escape these terms, but to redefine them - in the hope of opening up the possibilities for a different way of experiencing emotions and feelings, both public and private.