From wartime Romania to Vancouver, an artist’s memoir
CBC Radio, May 21, 2017
Author question and answer: Pnina Granirer talks Light Within the Shadows
The Vancouver Sun, May 19, 2017
TRANSLATION from Spanish
José Miguel Pérez Corrales – Surrealismo Internacional – http://surrint.blogspot.ca
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Pnina Granirer and Surrealism
In 2005, the exhibition “West Coast Surrealism: A Canadian Perspective” was held at the Foundation Eugenio Granell. It was presented by Gregg Simpson, the principal exponent of the Surrealist adventure in that part of the world. The names associated with Surrealism in the West Coast, whose center is Vancouver, have changed over the last half century. Other than the master of ceremonies, this exhibit included only three of its current representatives: Gordon Payne, Pnina Granirer and Martin Guderna—an “absolute Surrealist.” Payne and Granirer have participated in the group’s activities since the early 90s. Since the first exhibition that brought these artist together in the 90s, Granirer has participated in two highly important exhibitions for the Surrealism of our day: “O reverse do olhar” (The Other Side of Seeing), in Coimbra 2008, and “El umbral secreto” (The Secret Threshold), held to great acclaim in Santiago de Chile in 2009-‐2010.
Homage to an Unknown Kwagiuth artist, 1989, mixed media on paper, 22×39 in., 56×76 am.
Pnina Granirer’s oeuvre cannot be considered Surrealist in its entirety. It also lacks an openly acknowledged influence by the movement at any given moment, at least as far as we know. However, a truly fascinating period of her work attracted Gregg Simpson’s educated gaze. Simpson singled out her “poetic vision” and lyrical abstraction as the two traits that linked this artist to Surrealism. “Pnina Granirer’s art,” he wrote in a key 1997 text dedicated to her work, “is before all a lyrical art.”
Pnina Granirer was born in 1935 to a Jewish Rumanian family. She moved to Israel in 1950 in the aftermath of atrocious historical circumstances, which included surviving Nazism and, shortly thereafter, the so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Twelve years later, she moved to Vancouver where she has lived ever since.
Always resorting to a great variety of media and techniques, in the late seventies Granirer’s work took a turn that would bring it significantly closer to Surrealism. A few weeks ago I wrote in these pages that we need a book about Surrealism and Amerindian cultures. One of the chapters of this book would have to be devoted to Pnina Granirer ‘s work between 1978 and 1981, which was inspired by the landscape and rich native cultures of the Pacific Northwest and which brings to us a vision that Agustin Espinoza would have described as “integral”, that is to say, as poetic and non-‐realist.
The image at the beginning, titled “Homage to an Unknown Kwakiutl Artist,” belongs to this cycle. Other admirable pieces are “Legend of Forbidden Plateau (triptych), “Forest Ghosts” (diptych), “Whispering Forests” (full series), “Silent Roots Beneath the Mountains,” “Portrait of an Old Kwatiutl Man,” “Consumed Forest” and “Deep Forest”. Totemic elements and Kwakiutl masks are incorporated into the series on anthropophagic birds, “The Cannibal Bird Suite.” These mythical birds haunted the forests where people went in search of their song. The initiated were in danger of becoming transformed into one of them. The following painting from this series is titled “Dawn” (1981):
Dawn, 1981, mixed media on paper
30×22 in., 76×56 cm.
The fantastic totems, the masks and the sumptuous feasts that characterize Kwakiutl culture attracted Vincent Bounoure, for whom Kwakiutl art was the most “violently tormented” and the most “expressive and colorful.” Edward S. Curtis dedicated to it a full chapter of his book North American Indians, chapter 10 titled Chamanes y deidades (Shamans and Deities), translated by Olañeta in 1994. For her 1980 Vancouver exhibition, “West Coast Series,” Pnina Granirer wrote: “ I deliberately used some native design elements, as well as images of things vital to the life of the Coast People, who lived here from time immemorial. The animals, the boat, the fishhook, the fern and leaves printed directly on the paper are there to pay homage to the ancient West Coast People’s culture and to the hope of its survival in our times.”
In 1985 and 1986 Granirer found a new Surrealist inspiration. In early 1985 she had travelled to the Sunshine Coast where she experienced a revelation or, rather, where the rocks revealed themselves to her. The difficulty in describing this experience is telling.
We say mechanically that one “suffered” a hallucination or a revelation instead of saying that one “enjoyed” a hallucination or a revelation, which would be more correct. Pnina Granirer enjoys the intermittent revelation of the rocks, to which, she has repeatedly insisted, she had been indifferent up to that point. Rocks became a crucial element in her work and have remained so since that pivotal year. For Gregg Simpson, her “Carved Stones” series situate Granirer firmly within Surrealism, not only due to their “lyric quality” but also to their equally “disquieting” character. Her “Portrait of a Rock” (1988), see below, is a notable example.
In 1986, another trip to Gabriola Island acted as a poetic trigger. On this island, fertile with sand stones and indigenous pictographs, the artist discovered strange hollow cavities carved directly from the bedrock, now filled with rainwater and wild grasses. These were the remains of an old millstone quarry abandoned since the mid 30s. Its absolute strangeness gave birth to a plastic series, “The Millstone Quarry,” but also to poems and photographs. The triptych “Mystery on Gabriola Island” (1987), below, is part of that series.
Stonehead Red., 1988, mixed media on paper, 30×22 in. 56×76 cm.
When Pnina Granirer’s exhibition in a Strasbourg gallery opened, a visitor compared those mysterious holes to the holes she saw in the Vosges mountains. The Celts used rock cavities for libations. Had I been present at that exhibition, I would have found a similarity with the sanctuary at Panóias, in Trás-os-Montes, Portugal, where the Romans sacrificed animals “to the somber gods” atop granite rocks where they had excavated similar cavities.
For more information on Pnina Granirer, who I would venture to call a Surrealist in her Kwakiutl gaze and in the secret of the rocks, see Ted Lindberg’s thorough monograph, Pnina Granirer. Portrait of an Artist (Ronsdale Press, Vancouver, 1998).
You can also access her excellent webpage at www.pninagranirer.com.
José Miguel Pérez Corrales Departamento de Filologia Espanola Universidad de la Laguna Tenerife, Spain, November 21, 2012