Visceral portraits by Schalk van der Merwe both emotive and fragile

Cape Town-based artist Schalk van der Merwe’s visceral portraits have a directness about them, yet are underpinned with a tangible fragility. Ambiguous features can morph from immense beauty into utter despair, with hints of the eyes breaking the surface beneath layers of paint, charcoal, turpentine, expressive brush strokes and often physical DNA from the artists' fingertips.

Schalk’s work explores the concept of taking the mind out of the creative process to allow for a more honest expression. His art captures a vast range of emotions and often provokes a strong reaction from the viewer.

“My work is not reliant on a cognitive process. I believe overthinking can destroy originality. My portraits aren’t about realism, perfection, gender or race. They explore and attempt to capture those qualities and emotions often hidden from view."

The portraits are at once arresting, intriguing and oddly attractive. Each portrait has a delicate, melancholic expression with a coarse and visceral application of paint. Each face offers some deeply personal recognition of the subject even though the features are blurred to the point of anonymity.

For more information on the artist and his work visit or follow him on Instagram at @svandermerwe.


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