Born 10 October 1934
After graduating from the Witwatersrand School of Arts, Daan Vermeulen pursued a career in advertising because of his love of typography and design. He never abandoned his paint brushes, however, and started painting full-time again from 1992.
Always mindful of Professor Gardner’s farewell instruction at his graduation – to look with his heart and soul when painting – he travels the country to capture the striking, brutal boldness of the land.
Vermeulen explains his approach to communicating this: To accentuate this mood in my work, I apply strong, straight lines wherever possible. I also simplify subjects in the scene … less branches on a tree, fewer rocky outcrops on a mountainside. My passion for design and method of simplification contribute largely to a clean bold result.
By Daan Vermeulen:
It’s a small town set in the foothills of Karoo mountains. Along dusty roads studded with homes and cypress trees, an invasion of windmills dominate the skyline. This is De Aar, my birth place.
Later we moved to Kimberley. It was a time when the very last dust of an era of fortune seekers still hung in the air. Noisy trams rambled along its crooked streets. In Kimberley I received my first art school training. On a Saturday morning in Queens Park, below the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on horseback, art students sat, drawing and painting. The blistering hot years in the Diamond city passed swiftly. Then came the day I said goodbye to my childhood, my parents, to Kimberley and to Cecil John Rhodes on horseback in the park.
Two more statues welcomed me to the Witwatersrand School of Arts. The figure of Apollo, standing either side of the main entrance. Professor Gardener was a massive man of volume. The day we said goodbye, my handshake disappeared into his. “Now remember my boy,“ he said. “When you paint, look with your heart and soul . Don’t let your gaze just pass through. The power of seeing is an essential ingredient to the art of painting, in fact it’s an art on it’s own. All the five senses of sight , hearing, smell, taste and touch play an integral part in observing a subject.” He let go of my aching hand and disappeared down the long corridor of the school.
During my Art School years, I had developed a love for typography and design. A career in advertising seemed a natural one. This was a rewarding choice in many respects and moulded me into a balanced, creative person. In 1992, I said farewell to the advertising world and started painting on a full-time basis. The greatest motivation for this move came from Him who created that vast, endless classroom out there.
In the cool, crisp air of the Highveld, a sea of tall ochre grass stood waving across the African prairie to the foothills of blue mountains to the north. It was all present although almost obscure to human observation, the striking, brutal boldness of the land. Only the artist’s canvas itself could convey this message. To accentuate this mood in my work, I apply strong, straight lines wherever possible. I also simplify subjects in the scene… less branches to a tree, fewer rocky outcrops on a mountainside. My passion for design and method of simplification contribute largely to a clean, bold result.
Each year my wife and I travel the country; I draw and take photographs, but mostly to observe how the landscape reveals itself in a masterly exhibition of show-off beauty. I remember the last time I stood on a rocky hill of the Great Karoo. I saw the dusty devil whirlwinds dancing across the plains below … heard the distant call of the Korhaan, inhaled the fragrance from bouquets of Karoo-bush and felt the intense heat on my face. Only the far-off mountains looked cool. As if painted on canvas, the earth stood still in all its splendour.
© Johans Borman Fine Art