Jacynthe Carrier

Beauty and the Abandoned
Photographer examines the spaces between natural and urban landscape - where anything may happen

Jacynthe Carrier l Photo: Sophie Perreault-Allen Jacynthe Carrier l Photo: Sophie Perreault-Allen

"I was always amazed by these scarred landscapes. They're ugly, but beautiful at the same time: it's sort of an attraction/repulsion phenomenon."

Jacynthe Carrier is describing her fascination with nature and with developed land that has been abandoned or is little used, like decommissioned railway tracks or hydro line-cuts. Specifically, she's intrigued by areas where the two meet, and the contradiction that creates.

These areas beckon her to create a human event, to populate the scene with people gathered to do something but not to rebuild, as if to re-occupy the space just long enough to reinforce the human imprint.

"These spaces are not for settling down in. These are spaces for something to happen in," she explains, her eyes glued to the computer screen in an editing suite of the high-tech Visual Arts building.

The image she's looking it is of a bleak landscape dotted with a handful of people. The colours are somewhat muted, the people unsmiling. They seem to be waiting for something; Carrier has an idea what it is, but she wants viewers to create their own narratives.

The third-year MFA student in Photography calls such tableaux scenes de genres, allegorical ones in the style of Renaissance painters. Often her scenes feature people dressed in clothes reminiscent of Roma, or gypsies. People have told her there's a nomadic quality to her work, and she doesn't disagree.

"I am very attracted to this way of living,' she says. "There are ideas of migration, of women and generations."

A nomadic streak

The artist might well be relating to her own life, since she's been splitting her time between her hometown of Quebec City and Montreal for years. Before Concordia, she earned her BA in Visual and Media Art at the Université de Québec à Montréal. She wanted to have a graduate experience - the time, space and resources to concentrate on her research - and so applied to several Quebec universities, choosing Concordia for the impressive facilities of its renowned Photography program.

These include resources for videography, in which Carrier expresses her vision equally. She produced a striking short, À l'errance (2010), in which a video camera sweeps in and among the stock-still subjects, each in a different pose, who seem frozen in time on an abandoned railway track. Done in a single take with a single camera, viewers have the distinct impression they're walking through a three-dimensional still life.

Jacynthe Carrier, Commémore, ink jet print, 76 cm x 102 cm, 2010. Click to enlarge. Jacynthe Carrier, Commémore, ink jet print, 76 cm x 102 cm, 2010. Click to enlarge.

An homage to nomadic lifestyle, À l'errance won Carrier the Prix à la création artistique by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec in early 2011, and has been shown in Brazil, France and the U.S. Carrier will also likely gain exposure for her work being shown at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal as part of the Triennial exhibition, as well as from having recently earned a Dick and Gretchen Evans Fellowship.

But, Carrier likes to keep her eyes on her work. She talks about a recent video piece, called Rites (2011), a three-video channel installation in which a camera moves around a post-Apocalyptic scene amongst subjects who are each performing a single task. It speaks to another element that brings her energy: her human subjects.

"I love being with people, bringing them together and creating a kind of universe. It's very exciting to be part of this."


Jacynthe Carrier is a Concordia finalist for the 2013 Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Fellowship in Contemporary Art. The recipient will  be announced May 22, 2013.
* Update: in December 2012, Carrier received the Prix Pierre-Ayot

Story by Liz Crompton. Posted on Jan. 25, 2012

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