Cynthia G. Renard has great empathy for animals, especially those threatened with extinction. At Est-Nord-Est, she built a gigantic sperm whale out of paper, in preparation for an exhibition at the Musée régional de Rimouski. This piece is part of a long-term project, begun in the early 2000s, that has led to exhibitions at the Stewart Hall Art Gallery (Pointe-Claire) and Fonderie Darling (Montréal), as well as a residency at Centre Sagamie, in Alma.
Cynthia’s ambition is to create a collective imaginary around cetaceans; there are many in the St. Lawrence River, but they are hidden under its waves. Sperm whales, a species listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, regularly swim up the river. One of them drew Cynthia’s interest. Named Tryphon by the team at the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, it visited from 1991 to 2009, when it was beached on île Saint-Barnabé, near Rimouski, after becoming tangled in cables attached to crab traps. Cynthia wanted to pay tribute to Tryphon by re-creating it in three dimensions, with specific details (the shape of the notch on its tail, for example) and adding a poetic aspect: the projection of what she imagined Tryphon’s thoughts to be regarding the aquatic world.
Cynthia’s extensive research on the sperm whale has included aspects such as its evolution in the St. Lawrence and the characteristics of the species. Beyond whales, she is interested in bats. These small mammals attract less fascination – and sometimes even repulsion – yet their survival is essential in regulating the environment, as they consume huge quantities of insects.
In Cynthia’s practice, her plastic work is reinforced by her reflection on nature and the impact of human activities on it. The exhibition at the Musée régional de Rimouski, which will feature works and artefacts related to whales, will be both artistic and documentary in nature. Here, art is combined with society and environmental concerns to awaken people to the fragility and complexity of the natural world.
Cynthia Girard-Renard shapes a multifaceted universe in which politics, identities, and the imaginary are combined through painting, sculpture, installation, poetry, and performance. Cynthia’s free thematic associations open up spaces of poetic reflection in which humour and urgency are momentarily intermingled. In her works, she explores, among other things, the ecological future of the planet, the precariousness of national and gender identities, and the absurdity of austerity measures.
Born in Montréal, Cynthia is a visual artist and poet. Her works have been shown in solo exhibitions in Québec, Canada, and abroad. Her most recent novel, Le Renard vulve, was published in 2017. In 2018, she received the Prix Louis-Comtois and the Takao Tanabe Prize. She is an associate professor at Concordia University.