BC Bookworld review on Light within the Shadows



Light Within the Shadows: A Painter’s Memoir by Pnina Granirer (Granville Island $24.95)


Living through the Holocaust and escaping Stalinism led to Pnina Granirer’s life of making art.

by Joan Givner

LIGHT WITHIN THE Shadows: A Painter’s Memoir 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 awak- ening as an artist who develops into a celebrated painter.

Born in the port city of Braila in 1935, Pnina Granirer grew up under the brutal, fascism of the Iron Guard, an ultra-nationalist, anti- semitic, orthodox Christian movement 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 was 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. 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 Sputnik, was recruiting mathematicians.

Her husband’s career brought them first to the University of Illinois in Cham- paign-Urbana, later to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, 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 had 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 architect and expressionist painter, 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 into her most ambitious work.

The Trials of Eve (1983) is a series of twelve mixed-media paintings that examine 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 sym- bol 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 Eve 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 series (1985- 90), mixed-media works on paper and canvas, 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 Granirer’s career is illustrated with her work—from the drawings she made of places and people in Israel and the American mid-west to the ambitious paintings of her most recent 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.


A MAJOR RETROSPECTIVE OF Pnina Granirer’s work was published in Ted Lindberg’s Pnina Granirer: Portrait of an Artist (Ronsdale, 1998).

Biographer and novelist Joan Givner writes from Victoria.


Artists in our Midst this weekend was a great success

Well, it’s over! The weekend of Open Studios of Artists in our Midst has been most successful. I want to thank all of you who came to visit my studio and a very special thank you to all of those who purchased my art. I enjoyed meeting old friends and was thrilled to see new faces. It was gratifying to sense the enthusiasm and the pleasure of all of you who left carrying a piece of art that would enrich your life, while contributing to a great cause that is helping many others.

I am glad to report that that I am proud to help Stand up for Mental Health by handing them a donation of $15,000 that reflects the proceeds of the art you have bought from me. This donation will enable the organisation to open a new venue in Victoria, which they were unable to do until now for lack of funds.

Many thanks also to the few people who sent SMH cheques, since they were unable to come to the studio.

Thank you all and enjoy the art!

Laugh All You Can – It’s Good for the Soul! Big Artsy Fundraiser

It is time for you to become an art collector and support a good cause. What can bring you more happiness than this?

On the occasion of the 25thAnniversary of West of Main / Artists in our Midst, I will hold a benefit art sale in my studio. All large prints and works on canvas will be offered at a 50% discount with all proceeds donated to Stand up for Mental Health, an organization like no other, created by David Granirer and now active across Canada, the US and Australia.

Led by award-winning counsellor and stand-up comedian David Granirer, Stand up for Mental Health (which was featured in the VOICE award winning CBC documentary Cracking Up) teaches stand-up comedy to people with mental illness as a way of building confidence and fighting public stigma.  http://www.smhsociety.org
Open Studio and Benefit Sale: May 27 – 28, from 11 am – 5 pm

4557 W. 4th Ave., in the back studio, tel. 604-224-6795

Artists in our Midst – Featured artist

pnina painting2.narrowRead the interview with Pnina Granirer as featured artist for Artists in our Midst 2017 Open Studios.


Opening at the Roundhouse, May 18th, 7 – 9


Open studio May 27- 28, 11 am – 6 pm, 4557 W. 4th Ave.

During the open studio all large prints and works on canvas will be offered at 50% discount, with all proceeds donated to Stand up for Mental Health. (www.standupfor mentalhealth.com)

Light within the Shadows; a painter’s memoir

Pnina Granirer’s memoir. Light within the Shadows, will be launched during the Artists in our Midst /West side of Main Open Studios event, on May 25th, from 7 – 9 pm, at Lord Byng School, 16th and Crown (entrance on Crown).

LWS cover


Pnina Granirer’s memoir of her life from 1935 to the present describes a true artist’s odyssey conceived as a drama in three acts, starting with a perilous childhood as a Jewish girl in 1940s Romania, continuing with emigration to Israel in the early years of the state, and concluding with a long creative period in North America, mostly based in Vancouver. Granirer writes with a painter’s eye, vividly evoking cities from Jerusalem to Paris to Montreal, and landscapes from the coastal sand dunes of Israel to the far north of Canada.

Granirer shares her creative process and how it relates to her life experience in three very different cultures, with their different opportunities and limitations

This thoughtful and fascinating memoir would appeal to anyone interested in the creative life, and how it was lived by one gifted and determined artist through the vicissitudes of the 20th century and into the 21st.

Graham Good

Professor Emeritus of English, UBC

Author of The Observing Self and Humanism Betrayed

Good Company

42a3cfcf0da27faf174771df8a9abcf4I am honoured to be part of the prestigious permanent collection of Museo Fondacion Eugenio Granell, Spain. I am in good company, indeed, as seen in the list of artists below.

My work, Discovery at Gabriola 3, 22×30 in, mixed media on paper, 1987, has been selected to represent this permanent exhibition on the website of the Museum.  http://www.fundacion-granell.org/actualidad/index.php



Sala 1. Segunda Planta
Con obras de Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Toyen, Pnina Granirer, Penelope Rosemont, entre muchos otros.

La exposición Colección Surrealista, comisariada por Natalia Fernández Segarra, se compone de una selección de obras de la colección del mismo nombre creada por Granell a lo largo de su vida.
Entre los artistas que conforman la muestra destacamos a Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miró, Roberto Matta, Wifredo Lam, Francis Picabia, Susana Wald, Maruja Mallo, Anne Ethuin, Cruceiro Seixas, Toyen, Penelope Rosemont, Karl-Otto Gotz, Joana Domanska, Pnina Granirer o Yo Yoshitomé, entre otros.

Las llaves del deseo – The Keys of Desire

Red Landscape
Red Landscape


I had the honour of being invited to participate in the International exhibition of Surrealist Art, titled Las llaves del deseo (The Keys of Desire), that opened on March 11, 2916 at the Museo Municipal de Cartago in Costa Rica. Artists, musicians and writers from 19 countries are included in this major exhibition.

The seven works in the show will become part of the permanent collection of the Fondacion CameleonArt.

Although I do not consider myself a surrealist artist, my work contains many elements related to this style. Surrealism has pervaded our culture and our everyday language to the extent that it is difficult to consider it separate from other art forms. It is the way of expressing imagination that shapes dreams. For visual artists it becomes the poetry of form and colour, the projection of the inner vision made real.

Following my participation in a four Vancouver artists show, West Coast Surreal: a Canadian Perspective, at the Fundacion Museo Eugenio Granell, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, I continued to receive invitations to other exhibitions of Surrealist art, in Coinmbra, Portugal and Santiago de Chile. My works are now in the collections of the Fundacion Museo Eugenio Granell and the Museo Nacional de Chile. I discovered that the world of Surrealist artists was a warm and friendly one, where both artists and curators supported and helped one another and showed interest and appreciation for the art, unlike the usual cold, unfriendly art world of most museums and curators of contemporary art.

Pnina Granirer: The Love Making of Art

Human in t he Landscape #1, 2012, mixed media on wood and plexi, 19x27 in.
Human in t he Landscape #1, 2012, mixed media on wood and plexi, 19×27 in.


Humans in the Landscape, wood plexi, acrylic

Please visit my Premium page at Artists in Canada


Pnina Granirer is a prolific mixed media artist who has worked with the relationships of the figure through the primal beginnings of dance and understanding male and female relationships. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the Glenbow Art Gallery, Calgary Alberta, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario and the Richmond Art Gallery, BC.

I have always wondered why the most powerful drawings come from smaller, slighter built, even timid people. Granirer has an ability to connect herself with her subject matter and become a conduit of that energy for her own personal interpretation. What is unique is, she doesn’t lose sight of what information is important to put down. This is openly shared with those who wish to experience, learn and remember.

Since 2003 Granirer has showed extensively in International Group exhibitions in Europe, South America and Israel.

Paul Constable

Please feel free to contact Artists in Canada about Pnina Granirer’s work.

View more work by Pnina Granirer WEBSITE: www.pninagranirer.com