Memoirs of a Romanian Canadian painter

Antiques, a painting by Pnina Granirer.| Photo courtesy of Pnina Granirer.

After working as an artist for seven decades, Pnina Granirer has released a memoir, Light Within the Shadows, to chronicle her life as an artist.

She will be holding an artist’s talk and book launch in conjunction with her exhibit for the Jewish Book Festival on Nov. 16.

Establishing herself as an artist

As an artist, Granirer enjoys working with mixed media: from charcoal to acrylics and oil, as well as using feathers and leaves or other items to create textures in her work.

Early on in her career, Granirer says she was influenced by different artists and took a while to find her voice.

“I was never interested in trends and doing things in fashion,” says Granirer, 83.

She learned painting in series that followed a theme helped her focus her work since she was working with so many different elements.

“I would get an idea and develop it, and as long as it was still challenging and fresh, I would keep going; and when I knew I was repeating myself, I would stop and look for a different idea,” says Granirer. “It was a very panicky moment: will I ever get another idea?”

“In the establishment of the art, they like to categorize you. I always hated to be categorized and I always thought that being different was an asset, but it’s not,” says Granirer.

Granirer is from Romania and grew up under two communist regimes, and also lived through World War II. As a Jew, Granirer feels fortunate to have avoided capture by the Nazis. According to Granirer, the Jewish population in Romania before the war was about 750,000 people but half of them were killed during the Second World War.

Romania sold their Jewish citizens to Israel and that was where Granirer ended up when she was 15. She met her husband and they moved to the USA, where her husband could work as a mathematician. At the time, Granirer was unable to get a work visa so she spent her time honing her painting skills. Granirer and her husband moved to Vancouver in 1967 and have lived here ever since.

A new challenge

Pnina Granirer, Canadian painter and writer who has recently released her memoir Light Within the Shadows.| Photo courtesy of Pnina Granirer.

Five years ago, Granirer decided to stop painting and focus on writing her memoir. In her previous writing attempts, she had found herself distracted by painting and found the writing difficult to pick up again where she left off. For Granirer, writing was another way for her to be creative.

“I realized how different writing was from painting. When you see a painting, you see it in its entirety and you can spend as much time as you want with it; but you need a certain amount of time to listen to a piece of music or [to] read a book,” says Granirer.

The book is written in the style of a play with three acts. The first act recounts her time growing up in Romania; the second act follows her life in Israel; and the last act is about her life in America and Canada.

As someone who likes to experiment and try new things, Granirer found writing to be a new challenge.

Granirer doesn’t like to sound preachy but humbly hopes readers will feel that “one must never lose hope and that humour helps one to cope with life in dire circumstances.”

Granirer says her exhibit at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery will be like a retrospective. Most of the pieces featured will be from her book. There will also be pieces that she’s never shown before, including some from her time as a student in Jerusalem.


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