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View Artist Statement
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Gallery Direct Interview with PNINA GRANIRER|
Pnina is a very prolific artist whose imagery and ideas have spanned over four decades and three continents. Her work has formed a personal allegory that combines imagery from her life and family, her visions, and travels. She took a stand against oppression and racism, which is expressed in works now hanging at the offices of the UN Human Rights Commission in New York and the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. A major work, THE TRIALS OF EVE, was published as a prize winning limited edition book and made into a film by the same title.
I understand that when you were very young, you began painting and selling artwork out of necessity. Could you tell us the circumstances that made this necessary and what type of art you did at that time?
At the time I was 15 - 16 years old and living in Israel. Times were hard, my father could not find work in his profession and earned very little. I tried to help by painting on cockoo clocks and lampshades that were sold for children's rooms. Not exactly great art, but I was using my skills to make a bit of money.
Did you decide at an early age that you wanted to become an artist?
I always dreamt of being an artist, but again, this seemed like such a luxury at the time, so I decided I would study architecture instead at the Technion, in Haifa, where we lived. Maybe this is the reason that so many architects are really closet artists...However, I married at 19 and my husband wanted to study mathematics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where there was no school of architecture. But fate came to my rescue, since there was an art school, the now Bezalel Academy of Art. At the time, I could only take Graphics, or Commercial Art, which enabled me to make a living by doing illustrations for books and children's film strips. And - I learned to draw, for which I am eternally thankful.
I understand you moved to the U.S. before coming to Canada. Tell us about your move to the U.S. and how it affected your career as an artist?
When I moved to the US I did not have a working visa and could not earn money. The hand of fate, again, allowed me to do my fine art instead of commercial art. I continued doing woodblock prints, which I had been making before and drawings. I also developed a technique using only rollers, printing inks and textures. I thought that it was quite unique and very exciting, but when I came to Vancouver I found out that Maxwell Bates had been using a similar technique. That much for Universal consciousness...The Glenbow Museum, which has a large collection of Maxwell Bates, was interested in adding to their collection some of my paintings with this technique and chose some pieces.
At what point did you decide to pursue a career as a “fine art” artist?
At first I felt as if I was just 'indulging' in some kind of 'hobby', but the day I sold my first painting, I decided that this was the way I could communicate my ideas, that I had something to say that people were willing to listen to and live with. It was some kind of validation, although I have no doubt that I would have continued anyway.
Was there any specific event or “turning point” that you experienced that made you realize that your ambitions to become a successful “fine art” artist were being realized?
Perhaps I could call it a turning point in 1965, when I had my first show in Victoria at the Pandora's Box Gallery, and when the famous 'Limners' group of artists showed up at the opening and Maxwell Bates even bought a woodblock print. That was the real validation for me. And later, in the early 70s, when I joined Bau-Xi Gallery, was another turning point.
How have your life experiences influenced your work?
My work has always been informed by my experiences. When my children where small, I put them in my works. My travels led to the creation of the Alhambra series and the Kyoto Suite. My encounter with the West Coast led to a series on that subject and the discovery of the extraordinary rock formations on Gabriola and Saturna Islands ended up in the Carved Stones series. And when I turned 60 years old, I responded to this milestone with the series, In Search of Eden.
You have done many different series of works. What series is your personal favorite and why?
This is a hard question. Would you ask a mother which one of her children she loves best?
Much of your recent work reflects the human figure and dance. What has given you the inspiration for these artworks?
The figure has been coming in and out in my work over the years. My training was in figurative art and my interest is in the human aspect. Even in the Carved Stones, by introducing images of sculptures, I explored the relationship between Nature/Culture. In the mid 80s, when I did the series of Family Portraits, almost no one in Vancouver was making figurative art, which was quite a risk to take at the time and for which I paid a high price. Even now figurative art is not 'in', especially if it is not in the very realistic or neo-classical style.
What turned me on to the figure was a performance of Ballet BC. They kindly allowed me to come and photograph the dancers during rehearsals, which I did over a period of some 6 years. The result was the Dancers' Suite. Now I use these photos in many different ways and have shown these paintings several times in a few public galleries.
You are a very successful artist and have gone through a lot to get to where you are today. If you were to give an aspiring artist some advice, what would it be?
Another difficult question...Times have changed, everything is much more money oriented and celebrity driven. The first piece of advice would be to grow a very thick skin and learn to take rejection. Second, be aware that talent does not count for success, it is only a small part of it. Luck and connections go a long way. I don't want to sound too cynical, but the reality is that being a successful artist is not easy. Perseverance and belief in one's work are of essence.
Can you tell us what your next artwork series will be and when we can look forward to seeing it?
I am currently working on a body of work which I shall call 'Gauguin's Questions' - Where do we come from - what are we - where are we going? This will be a soul-searching series and my response to the environmental crisis. I have no plans as yet for an exhibition.
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