Split Spit Mound explores identity and conflict

Split Spit Mound, a painting and video installation by Toronto abstract artist Amanda Boulos, opened at Studio Sixty Six in the Glebe this weekend.

Boulos’ video installation is composed of compiled YouTube videos. She said she likes YouTube because anyone can publish on it.

“You get these banal videos of people doing things—like jumping off of the national monument in Lebanon—and it’s beautiful and weird,” Boulos said.

Most of the paintings are oil on canvas with some less conventional mediums mixed in. Boulos said she likes to use materials that mimic the human body in some way.

“Oil paint is so versatile. It refers to the body, and it’s luscious,” Boulos said. “I love mediums that can refer to the body. In some of the paintings I use tar and felt because they refer to different parts of the body as well, like hair or skin.”

Boulos said her paintings are inspired by her own Lebanese-Palestinian heritage, as well as exploring her identity as an artist. Her work deals with themes such as military conflict, identity, and family.

Lital Khaikin, assistant gallery director at Studio Sixty Six and curator of the exhibition, said in an email she found Boulos’ work through the Artist Project Fair in Toronto in 2015 and was drawn not only to her talents, but also to the way she engages with geopolitics, conflict, and her own identity.

Khaikin said her decision to bring Boulos’ art to Ottawa was based on her talent as a painter as well as the narratives she explores in her works.

“When the discussion turns to Palestinian identity, there is a very significant decision to amplify this particular narrative,” Khaikin said. “Globally and within Canada, we see how Palestinian voices, as well as those speaking in solidarity of the resistance to the Israeli apartheid, are being routinely and militarily silenced. So, there’s a certain gravity to a young, diasporic voice reflecting on the impacts these real conflicts have on intimate levels.”

Boulos said she wants people to interact with the paintings, and some of the paintings even have instructions painted into them.

“But I don’t want to dictate an idea,” Boulos explained. “I want you to take the time to research the political realms around the paintings—I don’t want you to leave empty-handed. The titles are really important for understanding the paintings.”

Khaikin said the response from visitors has been positive.

“As far as I could tell, visitors had really engaging conversations around the work, especially around the relationship between art and activism, artistic and curatorial responsibility, apathy, and viewer engagement in ‘political’ discourse,” Khaikin said.

Boulos’ installation will be at Studio Sixty Six from Jan. 30 to March 5.