Oliewenhuis Art Museum

13 May – 20 June 2021



Coordinates, 2019, Site-specific earth, bone ash, hair, Plexiglas and resin, 1080mm X 1990mm X 440mm

Oliewenhuis Art Museum is proud to host a solo-exhibition by Bloemfontein based artist, Adelheid von Maltitz from 13 May to 20 June 2021. Adelheid is the current Academic Head of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of the Free State. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 2005, her Masters in Fine Arts in 2009 and is currently studying towards her PhD in Fine Arts at the same institution. She has participated in several local and international exhibitions and in 2014 was awarded the ‘runner up’ prize in Sasol New Signatures.

For Adelheid making sculpture and installation art involves processes that allow her to think and work through personal anxieties regarding trauma or loss and death. Her interest in how her own art-making processes are comparable to conventional historical, as well as contemporary rituals which engage with death and loss. This interest was sparked when she observed (what looked to her like) a mother and sister continually, over months, rebuild and maintain a roadside shrine that she passed regularly on her daily commute. By initially examining the nature of roadside shrines in relation to her own art-making processes, she realized that the roadside shrine and the mourning rituals associated with it could be perceived as an investigative device that teases out questions relating to her own studio research. She was struck by the similarities in the ways in which death and loss may be engaged with constructively and in a healing manner, in art. The similarities that emerged are related to aspects of site, materiality and ritual. She was stimulated to examine art-making concerned with trauma and loss and with memorialisation and mourning practices, according to these three categories in historical and contemporary examples in order to illuminate her research questions.


Coordinates, 2019, Site-specific earth, bone ash, hair, Plexiglas and resin, 1080mm X 1990mm X 440mm

Adelheid considers most of the materials she uses in her artworks as site-specific, either directly collected from a site of trauma and loss or attempting to reference that site. These site-specific materials include earth, cremated bones, hair, nail clippings, breast milk and lint. The use of resin and Plexiglas is primarily to support these materials, and they also contribute meanings through their own material characteristics. She explains that she thinks of these site-specific materials as imbued with meaning and that she imagines the materials she uses, for example earth from Nazi concentration camps in Poland (the country where her grandfather was born and fled from during WWII) to have “witnessed” that trauma and loss. She further developed this imaginative thinking by means of particular processes when either re-working collected materials or creating new meaningfully imbued materials. These processes become ritual-like due to the structure she imposes on the way she collects and re-works the materials into her artworks. The ritualised actions of, for example, repetitive procedures of scattering, sprinkling, burning, pouring and grinding, and her working in specific places or at specific times, are all evocative. Moreover, there repetitive, place –or time-specific actions are enlivened by personal imaginative processes.

Invisible threshold, 2019, Site-specific earth, bone ash, resin and Plexiglas, 2215mm X 1910mm X 145mm

For Adelheid, even though she can imagine her way into something terrible like her own death or a family member’s death, her artwork, in all its various facets, allows her to engage with those thoughts and feelings and to some extent imagine a way out of it again. Her art making helps her be less paralysed and overcome, while it does not smooth over or hide realities. This ability to integrate the awareness of the certainty of death with the lush consciousness of continuation of life is after all what makes humans exceptional.

 Bodies, 2014, Site-specific earth, ash and resin, 2650mm X 1950mm X 1895mm


Resting place, 2015, Site-specific earth, ash and resin, 2300mm X 1550mm X 500mm


Oliewenhuis Art Museum is located at 16 Harry Smith Street, Bloemfontein. The visiting hours during Level 1 is from Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 15:00, Saturdays between 10:00 and 15:00 and closed on Sundays and public holidays. Entrance is free and secure parking is available for visitors and for buses. A ramp at the entrance of the main entrance provides access for wheel chairs, while a lift provides access to the Permanent Collection display areas on the first floor.

For more information on Oliewenhuis Art Museum please contact the Museum at 051 011 0525 (ext 200) or oliewen@nasmus.co.za. Stay up to date by following Oliewenhuis Art Museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for all upcoming exhibitions and events.

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