Carol Dallaire – Francine Dagenais, Taking leave of the focal point

[Fall 1995]

by Francine Dagenais

Related articles:
Portfolio : Carol Dallaire, LE COMPLET BLEU ou l’apparence des choses qui ne sont pas des sons (French only)
Article : Carol Dallaire – Marie-Josée Jean, L’image transmuée (French only)
The album titled Le complet bleu ou l’apparence des choses qui ne sont pas des sons (The blue suit, or the appearance of things that are not sounds) would seem to be a foray into the autobiographical world of snapshots.

Each untitled print functions as a symmetrically balanced triptych, within which portions of photographs are abutted against one another. In this particular presentation, the caption set underneath each print furnishes a short, somewhat disjointed, recollective narrative imparting or thwarting the thematic and emotional content of the image. The recurring principle characters of these are generic in nature (E.L., I.L. and N.É. – that is, H.E., S.H.E., and N.O.S.E. the dog); they shift continuously throughout, as do the settings. The commentaries accompanying the composites come across as sub-thoughts, sometimes amusing, sometimes bittersweet, and at other times deeply disturbing. With Le complet bleu, Carol Dallaire has developed a categorical scheme for the organization of emotional data. The photographic fragments are just that – portions, indicia, engrams, anecdotal particles that never reveal an entire story; their iterations very specifically break down linearity, anachronizing instead events depicted in simultaneity and reaffirming their strong interconnect-edness. As a result, the fragments re-emerge as hushed leitmotifs undergoing an endless process of de- and re-contextualizing. These dreamlike associations create an obvious struggle between manifest and latent content: the hidden is made compelling, but the surface indicators in the image and text may also be all there is. Whether we are dealing with the fictionalization of true stories or the reappropriation of fictional remnants adapted to a biographical format becomes irrelevant; these “biodramas” testify to the artist’s desire to collapse these two genres into one, while at the same time deconstructing the narrative into multiple subplots, perverting both source components of the phototext.

Dallaire’s digital prints are concretions that have undergone a number of manipulations. The triptych portions are processed either separately or as a whole. The artist makes use of the range of possible tools available in the Photoshop software to treat the photographic material. The initial (sometimes black and white) fragments might be given various colour overlays, veils, crosshatchings, blurrings, cracklings, pastel coatings, frostings, and so on. Just as the photograph was once considered to be an indicial bridge to the physicality of an object within a specific space and time, for the artist it now serves the more general purpose of representing the direct experience of seeing, as a conveyance from the real into the virtual. The artist plays the role of editor, creating montages from reframed stills, zooming in or out of them, directing the observer’s attention to certain details – the placement of hands on the railing of a boat, a lifesaver inscribed with the ship’s name, a female figure, rendered summarily, gazing through some textured glass, or perhaps beyond the scaling surface of an old painting – while at the same time treating the alterations as so many distancing effects, negating the clarity of the resolved image. Dallaire relies heavily on the power of recollective association: the beholder is made to feel a certain sense of nostalgia when viewing images that hold an array of parallel pasts; however, the diegesis hardly allows for nostalgia. The original snapshots are subjected to what I would metaphorically define as a cubist interpretation, fracturing into facets the various portions of photo-mnemonic reality and doing so in defiance of the single point of view.

Carol Dallaire lives and works in Chicoutimi. He is currently finishing a master’s degree in visual art at Université du Québec à Montréal. Since 1978, his work has been exhibited in Quebec and Canada, including at the Walter Phillips Gallery and Centre Copie-Art In 1994, he was a resident artist at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Francine Dagenais teaches art theory and art history at the Concordia University of Montreal and at the Ottawa University. She is actually interested by the digital image.