‘I was partly running away from home.’

Jacques vdMerwe artist. Sculptor, visual art, fine art
Jacques van der Merwe. Artworks of refugees and immigrants into Australia.
D.O.B. // 19-07-1956
DATE INTERVIEWED // 29-09-2014
COUNTRY OF BIRTH // IRELAND
COUNTRIES LIVED IN // IRELAND (U.K. SCHOOL), AUSTRALIA
DATE OF ARRRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA // 03-01-1976
KIND OF ENTRANCE // LIFESTOCK FREIGHT PLANE (RACE HORSES)

Michael came to Australia in 1976. He arrived in Australia penniless, with a dream to work in an art gallery. He worked in different galleries, and then started a gallery in Melbourne. Michael closed his gallery because of the market crash, and he lost everything. He went back in the museum sector.

I was born in Ireland in 1956 and came to Australia in 1976. Just before my 20thbirthday.  I was partly running away from home, trying to avoid spending another three years in England with the English Army. Following a family tradition, my father had sent me to boarding school in England and wanted me to go on to Sandhurst Military Academy. I was running away from that as, growing up in Ireland, I felt more Irish than English. 

I arrived in Australia almost penniless.  I desperately wanted to work in an art gallery, and got a job within two weeks at Monash University Gallery as a picture hanger.  My boss, Professor Patrick McCaughey, was a fellow Irishman, and I think rather liked the story of me running away on a horse plane.  He really encouraged me in my first job and when the curator got sick he brought me in as the acting curator at the age of 20 .