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Feminine photography - Being compared to one of the most enigmatic, fascinating, volatile and dangerous artists of the 16th-century is perhaps not something to which every ultra orthodox Jewish mother of eight aspires to. But Gitl Braun is no ordinary orthodox Jew; nor is she an ordinary artist.
Gitl graduated from Central Saint Martin’s School of Art aged 56, and since then has established a reputation as an innovative, engaging, and above all a profoundly sensual artist.
Gitl’s preferred medium is digital photography printed on canvas at the highest resolution and quality. She arranges fabric folds and produces remarkable patterns and creases out of sheets of white cloth, which she then photographs and prints on this contrasting flat medium. The resulting artworks are visually arresting, and though superficially simple are uniquely powerful.
The highly feminine works have inspired a deep commitment to interfaith collaboration between the traditional women of the Muslim faith and Gitl’s own orthodox upbringing.
Her second exhibition, Eve’s Daughters, has recently finished its run at the seemingly unlikely location of Jagonari Women’s Centre in Whitechapel, a centre more accustomed to the education and integration of Bengali women than to artistic exhibitions of any kind, let alone provocative, sensual art. Yet the pieces were highly regarded, speaking to women of all ages in a universal language that words (quite literally) could not.
Gitls’ third exhibition takes place in Bruce Castle, North London, a location famed for its continued commitment to the representation of ethnic diversity and heritage. The exhibition will be held for the entirety of the month of August.
The unusual history of the artist
The daughter of Holocaust survivors Feivel (Erno) and Iren Wallersein of Budapest, Gitl was born in Haifa, and then moved with her parents to live in the ultra orthodox Jerusalem quarter of Mea Shearim at four years old. Due to the pressures of her parent’s health, grinding poverty and a desperate housing situation, where she shared a one-basement room with her parents and her four brothers, she was placed in a nearby underfunded home for orphans. She lived here until she married the Rabbinical scholar, novelist and art collector Marton (Mayer) Braun.
True to the values of her upbringing, Gitl dedicated herself to being a fulltime wife and mother until all her children grew up. She begun her secular education in 1996 aged 46, and was accepted to Central St Martin’s School of Art in 2001.
Gitl began the course as a competent painter who was seeking her own visual language of inner expression, and turned to photography when she became aware of the more direct and spontaneous nature of this form of art. It was only in the last year of the course that she fell on the visual marvels and the psychological impact of the ‘whispering’ creases of sculpted fabric effects and made it into the art form of her choice.