Exploring the Inbetween: Nostalgia and the Uncanny in the Work of Kourtney Roy
08th February 2022
Kourtney Roy’s fantastical photographs are recognisable for their retro cinematic quality. Born in 1981, Roy spent her childhood growing up in Ontario, Canada, going on excursions with her cowboy father through the wilderness of British Columbia. Roy claims her childhood was marked by a ’sort of ‘rough’ living’, learning to shoot firearms and wield axes all from a very young age. The artists’ practice is driven by a fascination with liminal space and the uncanny, greatly influenced by the vast landscape of western Canada which she describes as the home to ‘a never-ending and unfathomable wilderness.’ The stark contrast between this potentially threatening, unruly landscape, to the squeaky, packaged nature of North American cities, further propelled Roy’s fascination.
Equated with the works of Cindy Sherman and Miles Aldridge, Roy’s photographs re-stage everyday scenes in an exaggerated, off-kilter way. Similarly to Sherman, Roy uses herself as her primary subject, taking on various personas emblematic of characters found in old westerns or Southern Gothic novels. In this way, Roy’s photographs appear somewhat sinister, capturing perturbed looking housewives to suspicious looking sunbathers, the characters often appear as if caught in a revelatory moment or at the cusp of a dramatic scene. The eerie, ‘quiet before the storm’ air of these images is accentuated by the garish reds and blues which appear symbolic of the American flag.
These kitschy scenes juxtapose the backdrops of remote landscapes and suburban banality. Roy states in an interview, ‘Most of my work tends to take place among ‘new world’ architecture which harkens back to the vernacular architecture of my youth; it’s a sort of drab 20th-century utilitarianism that is so prevalent in North America. Imagine run down highway motels, corner shops with hand-painted signs, generic and bland institutional buildings, isolated gas stations, ubiquitous fast-food chains and industrial parks, all set against the backdrop of a never-ending and unfathomable wilderness.’
The ArtistKourtney Roy’s work is bound up in an ambiguous and cinematic image-making that borders the real and the fantastical. Her approach to photography provokes contemplation and reconfiguration of common place subjects via playful revelation of the uncanny.Artist Page