Author Tags: Art, Jewish

Pnina Granirer grew up in Romania and Israel. Her paintings express her belief that "beauty has always existed side by side with violence, cruelty and war."

Pnina Granirer has exhibited her work locally, nationally and internationally in Paris, Strasbourg, the US, Prague, Santiago de Compostela (Spain), in Coimbra (Portugal) and in Santiago (Chile).

In 1993 Granirer co-founded Artists in Our Midst, the first ongoing Open Studio Walk in Vancouver, BC. She organized and hosted discussions about art via many Philosophers’ Cafés, sponsored by Simon Fraser University.
Her works can be found in numerous private and public collections, nationally and internationally, such as the Glenbow
Museum in Calgary, the Yad Vashem Centre in Jerusalem, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC, the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, BC, the Richmond Art Gallery, BC, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, ON, the Museo Eugenio Granell in Santiago de
Compostela, Spain, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile, and many more.

A forty-year retrospective of 120 works at the Richmond Art Gallery in January 1998 reflected the artistic development over her long career. The lavishly illustrated book Pnina Granirer: Portrait of an Artist by Ted Lindberg (Ronsdale Press 1998) was launched at the opening of the exhibition.

The Trials of Eve, a major work of 12 mixed media drawings and 12 poems, now in the collection of the Glenbow Museum in
Calgary, Alberta, was published as a limited edition book of 100 copies by Barbarian Press, and as a softcover edition of 500 copies in 1993. A film by Gretchen Jordan-Bastow based on this work was first shown at the Fifa in Paris, on Bravo!TV, on Knowledge Network and other venues.

The artist's exhibition, "Juxtapositions" included many paintings reproduced in her book The Trials of Eve (1990).

In 2005, a film about Granirer’s work by Mehdi Ali was launched on Bravo! TV.

In 2014, her work was included in the encyclopedia of international Surrealism by Arturo Schwarz, Il Surrealismo — Ieri e
Oggi (Italy) and in a 5-page chapter in José Miguel Pérez Corrales’s anthology, Surrealismo: El Oro del Tiempo (Spain).

See Joan Givner's review of Graniner's autobiography. [Below]

[BCBW 2017] "Art"

Pnina Granirer: Portrait of an Artist
Review (1998)

Pnina Granirer was born of Jewish parents in the Danube port-city of Braila, Romania, in 1935.

"Only now do I understand how lucky we had been to escape the camps and death trains," she says.

She was fortunate again in 1950 when she and her mother were allowed to emigrate to Israel where she was reunited with her father who had fled Communist persecution via a Yugoslav freighter.

Named Paula in Romania, she adopted Pnina -- meaning pearl in Hebrew -- and married a fellow Romanian emigre in 1954. Her family immigrated to Illinois in 1962, then moved to Ithaca, New York in 1964.

"I remember my surprise," she recalls in Ted Lindberg's Pnina Granirer: Portrait of an Artist (Ronsdale $39.95), "having just arrived in North America, that one could get a Master of Fine Arts degree."

Published in conjunction with a 40-year retrospective of her art at the Richmond Art Gallery, Lindberg's study includes 195 full-colour representations and text to examine her highly literate and spiritual approach to art.

In 1969 one of her monoprint drawings of her son, David, was selected for the cover of the UNICEF calendar. Reminiscent of works by William Blake, her Trials of Eve suite (1980-81) melded Old Testament and Westcoast Native symbolism.

A diptych from her 1988 exhibition Fear of Others -- Art Against Racism is now in the collection of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in New York.

Her Kyoto/Buddha series led to "In Search of Eden", a suite that epitomizes her synthesis of mythological themes and sustaining spiritual concerns.

"My angels have human faces," she says. "They are whimsical, happy, ironic. They look at the vibrant poppies so full of vitality and seem to say, 'You have the gift of this wonderful planet, take good care of it! Are you using your skills as an artist to enhance life, or are you just passing through?'

"In effect, working with these images is like therapy for myself -- I realize I need to look at the lighter side of life. In spite of all the darkness and misery in the world, we have to create or our own Edens. In my sixtieth year I have come to accept the fact that Paradise is an elusive goal; I can only keep up the search."

[BCBW 1998]

All about Eve and Pnina
Review (2017)

by Joan Givner

Light Within the Shadows: A Painter’s Memoir (Granville Island $24.95) by Pnina Granirer deftly weaves together two narratives: Granirer’s journey as a Romanian Jew who survives World War II and immigrates to North America, as well as her awakening as an artist who develops into a celebrated painter.

Pnina Granirer’s childhood was lived under the brutal, fascism of the Iron Guard, an ultra-nationalist, anti-semitic movement, fueled by Orthodox Christian zealousness, under the dictatorial direction of Horia Sima. When Ion Antonescu came to power in September 1940 and soon destroyed the Iron Guard, the Romanian Jewish community were seemingly less endangered than other Eastern European Jews.

But freedoms were steadily eroded. Ownership of telephones and radios were forbidden, cars and finally homes and libraries were plundered. Only much later, when she read I.C. Butnaru’s The Silent Holocaust: Romania and Its Jews, did Granirer understand the full extent of the devastation: half the Jewish population had been slaughtered.

Cattle trucks stood ready to deport the remaining Jews to the death camps, even as the country was “liberated” by the Russian army. This salvation, greeted rapturously at first, turned into another form of persecution. Under Communist rule, Granirer’s father, a committed socialist, was forced into hiding until he could be smuggled out to Israel. The rest of the family eventually followed him, their emigration made possible by Israel’s willingness to pay ransom for Romanian Jews, the largest number of European Holocaust survivors. Granirer and her mother were each ransomed for $100.

She describes her adolescent years in Israel as relatively happy ones, in spite of the poverty and crowded conditions. As an immigrant who didn’t know the language she worked hard to gain an education, met a fellow Romanian who became her husband and, until marriage exempted her, did the required military service. The young couple hoped to remain in Israel but their departure, like that of most “brain drains” world-wide, resulted from the lack of jobs. The Hebrew University had no position for her husband, who had earned his Ph.D in mathematics there. The U.S, on the other hand, propelled into the space race by the Russian success of Sputnick, was recruiting mathematicians.
Her husband’s career brought them first to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, later to Cornell, and finally to Vancouver, where Granirer began to find her way as an artist. As a schoolgirl she had been assigned the dubious and frightening task of producing a portrait of Stalin; in Israel she had found employment in factories that produced painted clocks and lampshades but, lacking a green card in the U.S., she was unable to work. Instead, she discovered a new freedom in drawing and painting to please herself, practising art for art’s sake.

It was in Vancouver in 1965 that she made her first association with a gallery--the small Danish Art Gallery run by Peder Bertelsen. There, at the age of thirty, she made her debut exhibition. A year later, a second exhibition was scheduled in Victoria at a small gallery on Pandora Street. This brought her into contact with the artists who in 1971 formed The Limners Group—Pat Martin Bates, Herbert Siebner, Karl Spreitz, Myfanwy Pavelic and others. She was honoured that Maxwell Bates bought one of her woodprints.
During a year in Montreal, her camaraderie with artists living bohemian lives devoted exclusively to their art made her question the effect on her work of her own conventional life as a wife and a mother. Her doubts were reinforced by talking to other female artists and by attending a workshop in 1980 with Judy Chicago, whose sensational work The Dinner Party was drawing crowds. Judy Chicago’s statement that no woman artist can ever make it big if she has a family resonated and propelled Granirer her into her most ambitious work.

The Trials of Eve examines the subjugation of women, beginning with the creation myth in the first two chapters of Genesis. Her model for the figures of Adam and Eve was a wooden marionette—face blank, race undefined, sex ambiguous, limbs easily manipulated. For the voice of Eve she chose the symbol of the Cannibal Bird of First Nations mythology. The structure of the series, to which she added lines of verse, echoed that of a play in three acts.
After exhibitions in Burnaby and at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, The Trials of Even became the basis of an award-winning book and was made into a film, shown at two international festivals. It is now part of the permanent collection at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
Her next project, The Carved Stones, was inspired by the rocks and stones of the Gulf Islands that display wild nature in its purest form, and by her contemplation of the contrast between them and the man-made statues of historical figures she saw in Paris.
Her involvement with an international organization Fear of Others: Art Against Racism inspired Out of the Flames, a triptych depicting war, destruction and survival. This was accepted by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem for its permanent collection and later included in the exhibition Virtues of Memory: Six Decades of Holocaust Survivors’ Creativity.
For this memoir, each step in Granirier’s career is illustrated with her work—from the drawings she made of places and people in Israel and the mid-west to the ambitious paintings of her final period. The paintings, many from The Carved Stones series, are reproduced in full colour. The visual component adds a rich dimension to this artist’s account of living and creating through eight decades of monumental upheaval and change.

Biographer and novelist Joan Givner now writes from Victoria.

[BCBW 2017]