In the heart of Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood comprising mostly nondescript malls and shops, a bright, orange mural featuring surreal characters and patterns adorns the height of an entire building. It’s the work of Jerusalem natives Gab and Elna, who go by the name Brothers of Light. Their art can be seen on structures all over Israel, as well as the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and France, among other places.
The name Brothers of Light was originally the title of their first solo show in 2015, dedicated to their mother, who had just passed away. The duo kept the name as they continued to make art together.
It seems fitting that the origin story of their collaboration was inspired by loss, because their art radiates positivity. “It's not something we initially planned on doing,” they say. “But if it takes people to an optimistic and better world, then our job is done.”
From skateboarding as an art to art on big walls
The brothers grew up in the skating scene in Jerusalem, which served as their first inspiration. “Skateboarding is a very visual thing, from board graphics to stickers to magazines and videos,” they say. “You're always meeting interesting people from different backgrounds who share that same love.”
Gab and Elna first got started painting on stickers and other small objects. They moved on to small walls and found that they were drawn to larger surfaces. “After painting outside for a while, you get that hunger to go on a big scale and see how your art feels at that size,” they recall.
The duo began experimenting on larger surfaces in an abandoned villa in the center of Jerusalem. They would use its walls like a giant sketchbook, visiting the building once a week for an entire summer. From there, they started getting gigs to work on other buildings. The villa that served as their canvas was recently demolished, but that’s just par for the course when you paint on walls. “It’s all temporary anyway,” they say.
In their larger projects, they found that the process itself was inspiring. “When working on a building for a week, you have the chance to really experience the local life of the neighborhood you're painting in,” Gab and Elna state. “Although we like to do all kinds of projects, painting big walls is our real passion, and we hope it will always remain this way.”
“Once we’ve finished a mural, our feeling is that it belongs to the place more than it is ours. When people get to enjoy the mural, we’ve already moved on to the next project.”
How patterns connect us
The brothers’ art features dreamlike characters, shapes and bright colors. There’s also a beaked, humanoid mystery figure that can be seen in most of their pieces, a self-portrait they added as a stand-in for themselves. Most strikingly, though, they use these elements to create repeating patterns that draw your eye around the piece.
“Life is a pattern in many aspects. Patterns exist in many cultures' art histories. It's a reminder that we are all part of something bigger. We all are different, but together we form a big pattern,” they reason. Their use of patterns in their pieces create evocative and cryptic effects that even they have a hard time putting into words.
Gab and Elna’s brushes weave around one another seamlessly, their voices as siblings complementing one another. Looking at their murals, you’d never guess they were painted by two people. “As brothers, we don't need to talk too much,” they say. “When one of us comes up with an idea, the other understands him and adds his own point of view”.
Going where your inspiration takes you
Gab and Elna don’t stick to any one way of working on a project. Instead, they try to remain open to inspiration as a part of their process.
“We like to start and then flow from there, with our imagination and visions letting one thing lead to another. It's also very common for our inspiration to come from a combination of colors we have in mind.” The subject matter of their pieces, they explain, is often the last to emerge.
While they find the process of creating murals exhilarating, the brothers don’t spend too much time basking in their completed pieces. “Once we’ve finished a mural, our feeling is that it belongs to the place more than it is ours. When people get to enjoy the mural, we’ve already moved on to the next project.”