Pnina C. Gagnon

Brain In Oil , 2008, 150cm x 210cm

Artist Statement

Most of my artwork revolves around themes based on the study of nature and natural phenomena. Some of these themes led to the production of ten artists' books. The first one was titled Jukim and Various Other Insects (1972). In this book I tried to widen the scope of my own imagination while drawing and writing on the most widespread form of life, namely insects, adding my own imaginary insects to the repertory of real ones.

In 1974, I created a book on clouds, again examining a very common phenomenon while intuitively projecting onto them imaginary qualities, some of which in time, were proven scientifically correct. The work on the book of clouds coincided with my work on maps. This allowed me to improve the quality of my drawings of curved and irregular lines. In 1978 and 1979, I continued the pursuit of lines by drawing the moving shadows of trees and ancient walls in different archaeological sites around the world.

Soon after, I became interested in the natural phenomena of fluids, such as the lava fields of Hawaii and the lines of light reflecting from the water on the edges of boats. I pursued my work and traveled to different seas including the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. The sea became a major subject of my work as I started to paint the lines on the sand left behind as the waves reach the shore as well as painting the reflecting lines on the sand in the shallow waters.

As a diversion from the perpetual movement of water, I became involved with stationary rocks and caves. However, I was able to document that even cave openings are changeable and vary, depending on the position of the viewer. I did this in a three-volume artist book entitled Cave Openings (1984). I also painted a series about stones on my father's grave. In the Jewish tradition, pebbles placed on graves symbolize the erection of a monument to the souls of the deceased.

When I first saw an aurora borealis in Fairbanks, Alaska, during the winter of 1986, it was evident to me that this amazing sight would become a subject for my work. The aurora resembles in macro the phenomenon of reflecting lines with the sun being the major force.

I also painted wakes of boats after a three month voyage to the Far East on an Israeli cargo ship. Wakes of smaller boats in fresh water Canadian lakes were also a subject. A single-copy artist book, Interlude at Sea (1987), resulted from these explorations.

Twice during my career I worked on the human body. The first time, in 1978, I altered the shape of bodies in drawings, and in 1992, I painted only males, using the same pictorial language that I used earlier for painting trees.

Different forms of trees have interested me throughout my life, particularly the two oldest olive trees in the Galilee that I encountered and the largest Banyan tree in Maui. I have also painted, cut out and photographed less sensational, more common trees.

During my artistic career I painted subjects originating from science, such as air currents and liquid crystals.

Hands and the deeds of hands were themes that led me to paint the hands of musicians and dancers. One major work is a triptych depicting the hands of an Israeli Arab drummer painted in the colors of the flags of Israel and of the P.L.O. I addition to live human hands, I have photographed broken ancient sculptures at the British Museum and the Louvre. Human hands can build or can wreak havoc. I decided with my work to rebuild and recreate.

I devoted six years to the theme of ecology, painting and drawing all kinds of life forms in color as well as black and white. Among the animals in which I was preoccupied were butterflies, fish, birds, frogs, turtles, elephants and whales. I also photographed road kill to illustrate the fate of so many creatures. For the Crater Lake Centennial Project, I made hundreds of cement footprints of mammals, birds and frogs to illustrate the abundance of life. I illustrated all the animals and habitat in the book Bestiaire 1 written by Serge Bouchard and some animals in the second Bestiaire.

In the last few years, I have become concerned by the political situation in the Middle East and the safety of Israel. This resulted in the creation of two large paintings (2 x 3 meters) of the old Jerusalem and its seven gates.

I then became interested in finding a pictorial language to show the events that occur on the tiniest level inside the living and inanimate bodies. For example, nuclear radiation on the surface of water or radiation reaching a multitude of cells.

Since many years I wrote down my own dreams in Hebrew in a hand made book, bound with an oil painting and chose 42 among them and drew. (this is my first series of Dreams, which are all in Museum of Fine Art)

Then for 3 years after rereading all the books of the Old Testament I painted 191 works, a selection of those pertaining to Exodus was exhibited in 2010 in the Montreal Museum of Fine art.

After my bible series I returned to my recent dreams, Dreams ll, 66 in number, which were recently translated to French by Rene Viau and will be published in the autumn of 2013 by Editions du Passage.

During this period I became interested in the brain and its activities, resulting in an exhibition Synapses/Brain Connections in Marie Uguay during this spring, and will move to another maison de la culture, Mercier, to be shown in November and December.

The freedom and divers speed of the movements in the brain and learning about meditation were the inspiration for my most ambitious project - painting Souls.

And I am looking forward to the future.