Jacynthe Carrier has carved a solid niche for herself in the contemporary art world. It’s a quiet place from which she carries a discourse of existential dimensions. She is fascinated by nature and our relationship to it and with it. Her photographs seek out abandoned spaces, both urban and rural, in which she often positions her ‘performers’, alter egos enacting her subtle choreography.

Winner of the 2012 Pierre Ayot Prize for an emerging Montreal artist, Carrier holds a Master’s degree in fine arts from Concordia University, and has been exhibiting her works across Canada. The videos that accompany her photographic presentations have been screened internationally.

Her latest exhibition at Montreal’s Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran combines both and shows Carrier at her best.

As in her previous series, Les eux, she positions the performers within a landscape, imposing as yet non-existent roles, allowing improvisation to dictate the movements. In this, poetically titled latest offering, brise glace soleil blanc, she has streamlined her production, using fewer performers, adjusting the tempo, while continuing to juxtapose their bodies with natural surroundings. Hands touch, caress rough boulders, or lean against them in silent communion. Many of the photographs are hung in diptychs and triptychs, creating a visual choreography of a different kind. Images of natural formations are broken by a human presence, and the viewer senses a pictorial dialogue taking place. The series is based on a variety of contrasts, be it between the human body and the natural environment, or between the male and female, ice and sand, or simply between black and white, shadow and light.

#4 de la suite brise glace, 2016 Archival pigment print 76 x 76 cm AP1 of edition of 3 + 2 APs

While creating her own visual iconography, Carrier is also creating a kind of mythology, a deeper narrative that can be traced to primordial preoccupations. Two images of performers struggling against a giant rock hints at Sisyphus and the ultimate futility of existence. One in black-and-white, the other in colour, they seem to be duelling from opposite ends.

Some of the cinematic pairings are painterly lyrical, as in a still from the video, composed of an image of sharp, moss covered rocks, and a shot of a man’s head from the back, forehead against a wall. The grey tones that seep into the green are sublime, as is the juxtaposition of the shard-like formations and the young man’s delicate skin and hair.

Carrier’s particular aesthetic and a feel for the sensuous are evident in her video works, which she produces with a talented team of sound and photo technicians. In her latest video presented at this exhibition, she has the performers attempt to appropriate the environment through a series of actions, from scratching to shaping, and at times by simply being present in the space. The split screen adds a strong visual component to the action.

What is truly magical about this quiet, 7 min. 50 sec. film, is the ambient sound that accompanies the happening, becoming its main participant. Breaths mingle with the sound of dripping icicles, hands swish across grainy rocks, there’s a hint of wind, somewhere a bird cries.

Shot in winter and summer – yet another contrast – it indulges the viewer in a sensory and sensual experience.

The movements in the video are slowed down, deliberate, as if the players were performing a walking meditation. This makes each action, no matter how enigmatic or vague, seem important, imbued with some profound sense of mission.

Like in her photographs, time and motion are suspended, ever so briefly, just long enough to intuit something beyond both.

The colour palette is delicate and controlled, often shifting to monochrome, segueing into the next image.

Carrier’s work has a comforting maturity, there is no risk of a visual hiccup, her workshop is neat and of the highest calibre. Although a quintessential contemporary artist, she opts for analogue in her work and that, too, adds another component to her production. And a personal touch that carries throughout her oeuvre.

#6 de la suite brise glace, 2016 Archival pigment print 53.5 x 51 cm Edition of 3 + 2 APs

Brise glace soleil blanc
Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, Montréal
November 9—December 23, 2016