Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pnina Granirer: Imagination Games

The fact that a senior artist, mainly known for paintings, prints and mixed media works can turn out such an up to the minute exhibition of digital photographic works was a revelation to me. Pnina Granirer's Imagination Games shows us that the so-called Vancouver School of Photo-Based Art has a rival in an artist trained in the old world art academies in the mid-20th century who has resisted their arid, theory-laden approach to create these works which are every bit as contemporary.

This difference in approach reminds me of the statement by French art historian, José Pierre, writing in his 1979 book, Surréalisme: "Today it is a fact that the art market has placed itself almost to a man under the flag of a dominant ideology… American Minimal Art, and its paler European imitations, only accord favour to painting which is only painting, that is to say that which forbids any modulation, vibration, emotion, form, any manifestation of the sensitive and even more of the unconscious and of myth. This admirable conjugation of puritan iconoclasm, of neo-positivist empiricism and of Wall Street is sometimes - like the olive in a dry martini- accompanied by a pinch of Maoist ideology." Granirer never bought into that school and stayed true to her roots.

But now she has turned out to have her own, equally contemporary approach to photographic art. By using photo editing software, Granirer alters and recombines street scenes that she photographed in Mexico a few years back. She realigns the streets, invents new perspectives and creates new colours for the poignant village streets she photographed. They make a spell binding installation.

What struck me as a strong point is also a source of some irony. Knowing of Granirer's less than favourable opinion of American minimalism and conceptual art, movements she has had nothing to do with while blazing her own trails in the west coast rainforest, it is worth noting the strong compositional element in this series. The repetitive elements in the imagery she has digitally collaged into existence remind me in a way of geometric minimalist painting or sculpture. The strong vertical edges of the old buildings give the pieces a bold framework that supports the lyrical atmosphere and the poetic transformations she has created.

What is different from a lot of minimalist or conceptual photography is the sense of the poetic. Granirer's geometry shows us the "manifestation of the sensitive" Pierre spoke of, in a new series that puts the lie to assumptions about photo based art in Vancouver's fractious artistic scene.

At the Sidney And Gertrude Zack Gallery, 950 W. 41st, Vancouver, until March 4,2012

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