Ill Drones: In the Studio With Amanda Boulos

by Anna Kovler

Finding a loose seed on the ground, it is almost impossible to tell what plant will sprout if one planted the mysterious seed. It’s not that the seed is invisible – it is in plain sight – but only the transformation will tell. Amanda Boulos’ paintings are teeming with seeds. They come in various guises, as water droplets, drones, breasts, eyes, mountains and animals. They are seeds of surveillance, destruction, migration and new beginnings.

When her grandfather left Palestine for Lebanon he expected to go back, cataloguing all his domestic possessions in his mind’s eye. Boulos’ paintings contain this haunting pull of leaving somewhere in a hurry. A mountain range one used to see from the window, an archway between a neighboring courtyard, a room. Using infinite layers of oil paint, Boulos reveals and obscures her repertoire of symbols drawn from her Palestinian heritage, contemporary life, and the imagination.

In the Morning (2017), which won the RBC painting competition this year, shows a dreamlike mass of flowers, hands, and animal horns amassing into a mountain shape. The formation is both ominous and beautiful at once. Boulos describes it as the final resting place for Mabid, a fictional character she uses to represent real characters that died during the Lebanese civil war.

One disturbing motif in her paintings recalls the Surrealist or Futurist manifestoes. A drone with numerous bulging breasts flies above landscape and sea. Capable of information gathering, dropping bombs, but also delivering aid, drones represent the technologically advanced nations of the world and their various tensions. “The drones with bosoms speak to the notion of vision and privilege,” explains Boulos. “The privilege of being able to see certain things. The drone has a vantage point not everyone had access to, that’s why it is there in my paintings, a figure that can see things but not touch things. Like the drone, the bosom gives things to the earth without touching it.”

Replete with symbolism and luxurious layering of paint, these paintings engage the mundane as much as the unforgettable. Boulos treats her paintings like memories, arenas where layers of new information continuously hide and reveal what has come before. Here, the realm of vision is not simply what we see, but what we remember and wish for and dream. A glimpse out the window can one day remind you of your homeland’s mountain range, and another day form a brand new memory, a new home.

Amanda Boulos is the national winner of the 2018 RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Her painting In the Morning (2017) received the grand $25,000 prize and is now part of the RBC Corporate Art Collection. Upcoming engagements include a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and an exhibition at Untitled Art Society in Calgary, Alberta.


Amanda Boulos, In the Morning, 2017. Oil on panel, 42 x 40”.

Amanda Boulos, Hanging Up the Blue Eye, 2017. Oil on Panel.


Amanda Boulos, Pouring Boys, 2016

Photo Documentation by Laura Findlay