Cynthia Girard-Renard | esse arts + opinions

Cynthia Girard-Renard

Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, Nails Salon, 2016. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, The Invisible Hand, 2016. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, Wow! How Much???, 2017. Photo: Paul Litherland
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, No Science, No Evidence, No Truth, No Democracy, 2015. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, À mes amies les licornes, installation view, Parisian Laundry, Montréal, 2013. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, Sous les pavées, la plage, 2015. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, Nègres blancs d’Amérique, 2012. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, Résistons ensemble, et unis !, 2017. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
  • Cynthia Girard-Renard, Nos Maîtres les fous, Musée d’art de Joliette, Joliette, 2017. Photo: Ysabelle Forest Folder

A Polyphonic Community

Power relationships are central to the work of Cynthia Girard-Renard, who references such figures as Marx, Arendt, Sade, Fanon, Vallières, and Haraway. Calls for rebellion are also plentiful, whether by reference to the sans-culottes and the French Revolution, by echoing protest slogans, or by denouncing the racism and injustices associated with the mystifications of capitalism. Behind the main figures in her paintings, secondary actors have a voice: they call for resisting “united and together,” they challenge such questions as the meaning of  “colourism,” a term that refers both to the role of colour in Girard-Renard’s work and to charts that show intensity of skin colour to serve as a factor for identification and discrimination. Her paintings abound in such wordplay; their pop look seduces viewers only to confound them, with the turn of a phrase, by showing the underbelly of their sugar-coated scenery.

What any contemporary discussion about democracy must consider is difference, along with the corollary difficulty of conceiving a commonality that would allow us to believe in the existence of a people. Such belief allows us to counter the idea that all political action is motivated by rational calculation based on individual interest. By broaching the social movements that have helped reveal a people’s fictitious unity, Girard-Renard makes visible the polyphony concealed in the notion and the role of passions in guiding our actions. Outwardly representing a people as a community of animals, she highlights the utopian nature of this fiction by celebrating another imagined and equally fictitious world, that of a natural and harmonious order. Figures of fluid gender and sexuality, ecologists, migrants, and the colonized romp about in a body of work that exhibits an orgy of chaotic joy and refuses to adopt a pessimistic outlook. Indeed, the artist chooses to share rather than compete by including colleagues in solo exhibitions that would otherwise be devoted exclusively to her own visibility, thus fulfilling the ideal of community by the actions she takes in her own life.

[Translated from the French by Ron Ross]

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