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Hiltrud Aliber: Earthing / Unearthing: With Closed Eyes I See

Published onOct 29, 2013
Hiltrud Aliber: Earthing / Unearthing: With Closed Eyes I See

I draw with closed eyes. My closed eyes allow me to take a break from the relentless visual processing required by our contemporary technological culture and visual-material world.

Enabled by the drawing process, my inner journeys navigate a strange geography where areas of the paper activate specific sites on the mental landscape, unearthing what has been dormant or lost, and reclaiming or earthing it. By closing my eyes I relinquish familiar methods of control, but gain access to ways of seeing and experiencing I could not have anticipated. For San rock artists the rock face represented a veil between tangible reality and the spirit world. Paper and charcoal have for me become mediating vehicles between inner and outer, visible and invisible worlds.

our history isn’t over yet.” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“HIV – too many lies, too many short-lived lives.” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“i am meant to be here, meant to hold, inhabit and love, however transient it may be & yesterday was not for nothing. Pencil & charcoal pencil on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“but what is really important?” Charcoal pencil on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“are we still thinking in black & white?” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“anchor my roots.” Charcoal and white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“amnesty blanket.” charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“allowing honesty.” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

The idea of drawing with closed eyes developed over many years. Night-drawings in the wilderness – sleepless from malaria drugs – initiated the process. The comforting stillness and inner connection experienced through different meditative practices, paved the way to a reflective form of drawing. Encounters with Betty Edwards’ blind contour drawings, and quietly arresting art works such as Kathy Prendergast’s “City Drawings”, Willem Boshoff’s “Blind Alphabet”, and Mark Rothko’s colourfields among others, encouraged me to follow my own inner path within the realm of art, allowing the process to speak for itself. I felt drawn to intuitive processes that my intellect could not grasp.

“unspoken I.” Charcoal and white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“unspoken II.” Charcoal and white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“where am i going?” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng

“what is left when strong passions have been spent?” Charcoal & white pastel. Photo: Musa Rapuleng

“what do we do when we don’t feel the love or the courage or the faith?” Charcoal & white pastel. Photo: Musa Rapuleng

“security blanket.” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“something i don’t understand.” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“the anger under my skin is a language.” Charcoal & white pastel. Photo: Musa Rapuleng

“this is where i am. this is where i have been.” Charcoal & white pastel. Photo: Musa Rapuleng

“searching for silence.” Charcoal pencil on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng

“yes i am allowed to love.” Charcoal pencil on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“roots & routes: migrations to a better place.” Charcoal pencil on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“layers of whiteness how do i love you?” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“can i tat2 u in2 my soul?” Charcoal & white pastel on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“the anger under my skin is a landscape.” Charcoal & white pastel. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.

“our lives are too complicated.” Charcoal pencil on paper. Photo: Musa Rapuleng.


What is it that defies our understanding? What is it that keeps eluding our grasp? Blind-spots, with their evasive power, can also be regarded as a kind of veil, temporarily obscuring what lies beyond the boundaries of our current understanding, perceptive ability or world view. Fear and prejudice may prevent us from acknowledging our limitations, thereby rendering - what should only be a veil - obstructive and impermeable. While our understanding may be limited at any given time, our ability to learn has transcending power to unveil what has been obscured.

My self-imposed blindness has opened new ways of seeing for me. By allowing myself an inner space to be, to feel, to reflect, to process, grieve and integrate, I reclaim my inner being and with it the ability to face my outer reality anew.

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Hiltrud Aliber (von Seydlitz) has a background in the practice and teaching of ceramics, but has always wanted to draw. She was born in the 60’s in Johannesburg, South Africa, which she still calls her home. Her first solo exhibition was held at Spaza Gallery in October 2012.

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