Judith Braun’s solo show, ‘May I Draw’, is an act of investigation through drawing. She seems to probe universal truths that are revealed in sacred geometry, making her own mark with the unfolding of pattern, arabesques, and abstract lines by artfully manipulating graphite and charcoal. She posits us in a realm that defies language, just as one is left awe-stricken in the presence of beauty. This is work of sensitivity and of humility, where Braun’s self-expression is one of pleasure and playful discovery whilst finding order from the chaos of the ego, and using the one of the oldest and most primal means of visual expression, the simple act of drawing. Most importantly, in my opinion, the works give the impression of pure joy that is accompanied in the process of making.
What is impressive is to notice the artist’s touch because the process of crafting becomes valorised the more that we look. We become aware of her labor intensive process that showcases the handmade in contrast to the contemporary predominance of technology, and a sense of intimacy which compels the viewer to look closely and to achieve what we need in a fast paced modern world: the ability to marvel. She compels us to focus, even if briefly, on the beauty of minutiae, in this case with the use of simple drawing media and compelling marks.
Repetition is a key feature of this work. The act of repetition is said to subjugate the left (logic) side of the brain to open pathways in the right brain (its’ creative side). Through repetition, Braun seems to be searching. The act of repetition is also a sacrifice of the self by way of endurance, making marks as if repeating a mantra until a form comes into being. The path is not aimless for the result is a series of visual delights that somehow speak to an unconscious knowledge that we can all connect to, making language redundant.
The show juxtaposes small quiet works with a dominant large scale piece, Finger Panels 1-4” , where evidence of her body as instrument spreads itself over larger-than-life-sized ground. Here Braun uses her fingers to smear charcoal on paper in a series of obsessive, repetitive marks to form a pattern and seems to imply the sense of her struggle to create, like hands scratching against a wall of a self-imposed internal space of confinement often associated with embarking into the unknown. In contrast to this alluring work, the smaller drawings appear to represent a different stage of the process, where forms become more organic and free-flowing yet still adhere to a sense of symmetry and order.
This is beyond representation, it is an animation of feeling, a search to bring out what is most beautiful and to find sense in why we do what we do. There are no grand reasons. It is simply about joy and pleasure. Braun achieves this with elegance, inviting the observer to look and suspend thought, and in doing so perhaps we may enter her experience. She appears to lose herself in contemplation, in order to then find herself again as the patterns emerge in their various exquisite formations. She reminds us that there is nothing new, but she redefines it by making available the experience of her sense of touch.
Words KAREN GARRATT/ Photo: LIZANNE MERILL
Joe Sheftel Gallery 24A Orchard Street Lower East side Until April 21st