The ugliness of Montreal

Véronique hands me a watercolor. I recognize the camp on Notre-Dame Street. “There is a beauty in that. Having known people who were in these camps, I know that there is a lot of mutual assistance. There’s everything, in fact. »

My gaze passes from the paintings that Véronique Cyr reveals to me to her eyes, which she has glimmering and sparkling, with the same admiration. His creations bear witness to a banal Montreal, but full of humanity. Its convenience stores with faded posters and promises of cold beer, its porn cinema, its daycare carts parked in parallel, its camps for people experiencing homelessness.

“I like to paint what doesn’t really interest the world,” says Véronique Cyr. I have a series of dumpsters…”

She laughs and explains to me that she was inspired by Monet, who painted a single landscape in different lights. In the courtyard of the organization In the street there is a dumpster and it is rather the graffiti that transforms its appearance. Véronique decided to reproduce some variations of the same waste, as long as she sees it daily.

After studying visual arts, being a researcher and a cabinetmaker, she found her way to the community sector.


Véronique Cyr

“I had had big jobs, but I was no longer capable. I had cancer and after being a stay-at-home mom for two years, I appealed to everyone on Facebook. A friend asked me if I wanted to replace the reception at Dans la rue, for two weeks… I’ve been there for seven years. It fits with the chaos in my head, I feel good there. »

Véronique Cyr now works in youth roaming. As a project manager, she helps people find housing and, above all, keep it. A process to which we collectively pay little attention, just like what she paints. From the desolate roadside to the abandoned pick-up in a yard.

“There is so much beauty, freshness and humility in this kind of landscape. I love them very much. »

  • Facade of a Montreal convenience store


    Facade of a Montreal convenience store

  • Front of a daycare


    Front of a daycare

  • Color in the city, the little pink house at the top of an old factory


    Color in the city, the little pink house at the top of an old factory

  • Montreal clotheslines


    Montreal clotheslines


Their evocation is all the more astonishing as it is based on watercolor, a medium that we associate more with soft decorations and pretty flowers than with precarious living environments.

Véronique Cyr humbly compares her approach to that of Robert Morin. In Yes sir ! Madam, the filmmaker films nylon stockings moving in the wind. Nylon stockings are ugly and smelly. In this scene, however, they are magnificent. “Ugliness, when you add tenderness and the look of art, you have something that can stimulate interesting areas in the brains of others,” she summarizes.

It can also help to cope with the heaviness of everyday life.

“The work I do is still emotionally difficult,” continues Véronique Cyr. There is light, but there are also harder situations. Sometimes I need to take color and arrange it to create some sort of balance there. To place things on paper which absorbs the material. »

Véronique Cyr sees beauty where we wouldn’t suspect it, but she is not impervious to suffering. It brings together the different faces of the metropolis.

“Do you paint these realities to help us see them better? »

– No. I reproduce them with the aim of collecting the impressions I have. »

An approach like a love letter to Montreal. A native of Gaspésie, Véronique Cyr has lived in the metropolis for 30 years.


Cinema Love, by Véronique Cyr

“When you come from a region, it’s a bit legendary, Montreal! I wanted the city and I was never disappointed. There is always something to watch. My work is not pretentious, it could be in children’s books if it didn’t represent Cinema L’Amour… The idea is not to get bored! »

I tell him that it would make a good column title, “The idea is not to get bored!” » This is why I love the metropolis, in fact. It hides an incredible number of people who transform it, support it, make it united, strange and abundant in all its banality. How can you be bored there?

Every day I walk through the city with the sole intention of seeing it. I observe the houses, the courtyards, the passers-by, the posters, the cats, the alleys. I have the impression that Véronique Cyr’s work illustrates my daily encounters. He encourages everyone to distance themselves from themselves.

She nods enthusiastically: “Get out of your head!” Take your eyes where they never go. Err! It’s not always fun, being in your head… If I allow myself to come out of it and look outside, it’s a massage for the brain. That means I can solve problems afterwards. Do you want to be productive in life? Go outside ! »

Does Montreal hold any secrets for those who observe it so closely?

“I’ve been with the same guy for 23 years and he still surprises me! If one individual can always surprise me, it’s official that an entire city can do it. »

And Véronique Cyr’s eyes shine even brighter.

And I tell myself that deep down, it’s not surprising that they know how to see in the dark.

Véronique Cyr’s watercolors currently adorn the walls of Casa Obscura, a self-managed multidisciplinary artists’ studio, located at 4381, avenue Papineau, in Montreal.


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