Local artist Hermien van der Merwe displays artworks at the summit of Table Mountain

Local artist Hermien van der Merwe is the visionary behind the Shop at the Top's gorgeous new artwork.

Renowned Capetonian artist Hermien van der Merwe has proudly created two  masterpieces for the Table Mountain Cableway's Shop at the Top and the Kiosk. We absolutely adore the yellow pincushion artworks currently on display, so we sat down to chat to Hermien about her inspiration and her love for Table Mountain.

Cableway: Would you please describe your artworks for us?

Hermien: I have been using Fynbos plant material in my art making since 2008. I recently relocated to Cape Town and now live on the Twelve Apostles side of Table Mountain – with views of the mountain and the ocean. What a privilege to now have the Fynbos biosphere of Table Mountain National park so close to me. 

I work in a large variety of art media: pen-and-ink, oil paint, water colour and Linotypes.  I love drawing Pincushions, various Protea species, Leocadendrons, Ericas and other lesser known Fynbos plants. I often use mixed media in my artworks and vary my colours from a subdued natural palette, to the vibrant reds, greens and yellows of the flowers. I love to carve out Lino blocks and then print and colour them by hand.

My work expresses the beauty of nature that I observe: the influence of the recent drought on the Fynbos plants, the veld fires scorching the Fynbos to produce a better flowering season, and the greys and aqua of the ever changing ocean. I aim to portray the fragile nature of this unique biosphere and the importance to preserve it for future generations.

The completed pincushion artwork on display in the Shop at the Top

Cableway: What was your inspiration for these pieces?

Hermien: I wanted to make an artwork that brings warmth and colour into the cold stone building on the mountain.  Rianda Williams, the Cableway’s Retail Manager, suggested that I use yellow as a theme colour to go along with the natural yellow colouring of the stones which were used to build the building, as well as the copper trimmings and chandeliers in the shop.  I then decided to use two Pincushion flowers to represent the Cape Fynbos biosphere.

For the artwork that is exhibited in The Shop at the Top, I have made a mixed media artwork on paper: I used brown and black drawing inks to make a pen-and-ink drawing of the Pincushion flower. I then used yellow ink and metallic oil paint to give colour to the background. 

The artwork which is being exhibited in the Kiosk is a Linotype of a Pincushion flower. The image was carefully cut out into the linoleum, using fine chisels. The relief was then rolled with black printers ink and printed. I used bright yellow and orange drawing ink to give colour to the flower and the background. 

Both artworks were digitally scanned, enlarged, and printed on canvas wallpaper. The quality is such that even the smallest art markings can be seen –the strokes of the pen and the texture of the paper will contribute to make the visual effect interesting and true to the original artwork.

Cableway: Please tell us how your partnership with us came about?

Hermien: Rianda contacted me in 2015 to buy art for the shops on Table Mountain. She searched the internet and found my artworks there. Two of my artworks of Protea flowers with bright red backgrounds were digitally enlarged to decorate the walls of the shops on the mountain. 

Since 2015, I have been making smaller original artworks which are for sale in The Shop at the Top. My latest series is hand printed linotypes of Fynbos flowers in bright reds, yellows and gold.

Cableway: Please tell us about your first visit to our site? How old were you and what stood out about the experience?

Hermien: I love to visit Table Mountain! I often walk from the Camps Bay side to the top and then take the Cable car down again. 

The first time that I went up the mountain, I was visiting Cape Town with my parents (I then lived in George.)  I was very young and can clearly remember the trip up the mountain in the old and slow cable car, but what stood out about that day, was the sweet, delicious hot chocolate that we had in the small restaurant on the mountain.

Cableway: What do you love most about Table Mountain?

Hermien: I love so many things about Table Mountain: I love the feeling of being on top of the world. I often walk on the mountain paths searching for interesting plants and enjoying fresh air and exercise. I also love using the cable car to go up for the spectacular views and a cup of coffee. I take my camera along and take endless photos of the ever-changing Fynbos plants; admiring them, and then processing and interpreting their beauty and detail in my studio.

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