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Toronto
Terence Dick
Amanda Boulos at Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects
August 23, 2017

Amanda Boulos’ debut exhibition at Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects is a wonderful opportunity to consider the myriad ways visual art – and painting in particular – elicits meaning. The artist supplies canvases and some of the accompanying context, which the viewer then navigates, assimilates, and interpolates with understandings of their own. This interaction is as old as cave painting, so each new artist’s challenge is to make it original and intriguing despite all the images the viewer has already seen. Boulos succeeds at making fresh connections with the tried and true application of pigment on a flat surface by drawing on her personal history as a Palestinian-Canadian but stopping just short of illustrating those almost lost narratives.



Amanda Boulos, Pouring Boys 2, 2016, oil on canvas

In first looking at these paintings, prior to any knowledge of the background of the artist, one can identify distant landscapes depicted from an aerial view as well as suggestions of surrealism in dreamlike scenarios that place fragments of architecture (window openings figure often) alongside seeming non sequiturs (eyeballs are a common touch). The brushwork is smeared and hazy, which only reinforces the purposefully imprecise visions that border on abstraction. Once it’s revealed that the artist is representing scenes from the Middle East, the muted palette of sandy browns and blended earth tones makes sense (or, at least, it clicks with my mediated knowledge of the Palestinian landscape gathered as it is from documentaries, news reports, and assorted films and artwork).



Amanda Boulos, Mediterranean Sea, 2017, oil on canvas

The paintings acquire an even greater sense of gravity when one learns that each one is inspired by a story from someone in the artist’s family. Such specific information can lock down the reading of a work to a single narrative, so it is best to resist learning too much too soon. Simply knowing that those stories are all the material remains of Boulos’ roots in Palestine creates the impression of meaning lost to time and distance. Rather than privilege her insider’s perspective, she gives us fragments, silhouettes, and uncertain images. This is what memory looks like when it is passed down through oral means, from older relatives to children who piece together what they’ve heard into approximations that are only slightly more substantial than dreams. There might be shadowy warplanes crossing over a forest or distant desert mountains seen through an opening in a wall. There might be trees in the night or a helicopter crossing a border. There might be a faint impression of someone’s hand reaching out or disembodied eyeballs floating in the foreground. These recognizable figures lie just on the edge of an enveloping murk or surrounded by the vague impressions of peripheral vision. Boulos applies her paint in a manner than blurs details but opens the window for interpretation while retaining some contextual specificity. She has the ability to make lingering over a painting a lesson in looking and learning. Her exhibition is well worth your time.


Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects: http://dupontprojects.com/
Amanda Boulos: Pouring Horizons continues until September 2.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

 

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