Original Research

Eyeing the creatures: an exploration of mirth as a personal function of art

J.R. Botha
Literator | Vol 30, No 1 | a71 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v30i1.71 | © 2009 J.R. Botha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 July 2009 | Published: 25 July 2009

About the author(s)

J.R. Botha, School for Communication Studies, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa

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This article investigates the contribution by artist Jan van der Merwe to the project known as the “Creative creatures”. The project, initiated by Franci Greyling and Ian Marley, was based on the descriptions of a collection of fantastic creatures as relayed by Marley’s five year-old son, Joshua. Van der Merwe opted to design a special set of glasses for each of the creatures, and these works are discussed within the broader context of mirth in art. In order to explicate the term “mirth”, a brief art-historical survey is done with reference to key figures such as Bosch, Bruegel and others. The role of scary creatures in art is contextualised by comparing the work done by the stonemasons of the Gothic period with those of Van der Merwe done for the “Creative creatures” project. Throughout the article mirth as a personal function of art is discussed by interpreting the creative role of selected artists and their works. In conclusion it is suggested that the engagement with (scary) visual art should be enjoyed as a reciprocal event akin to a game – a game in which the mirthful characteristics of the work of art should be seen as a function to be savoured.


Function Of Art; Bestiary; Creature; Mirth; Act Of Playing; Visual Art


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