photo of Amanda Boulos standing next to her winning painting
Amanda Boulos with her winning painting In the Morning (RBC)

A University of Guelph graduate has won the coveted RBC Canadian Painting Competition. It is the eighth year in a row that a U of G student or graduate has won or been a finalist for the prestigious award.

Amanda Boulos was announced as the winner of the $25,000 prize Tuesday. She was a finalist in 2017, the same year she graduated from U of G’s master of fine art (MFA) program.

“We are thrilled with the announcement of yet another College of Arts grad from the School of Fine Art and Music winning the RBC Canadian Painting competition,” said Samantha Brennan, dean of the College of Arts. “It is a mark of the excellence of our graduate program and the impact our students are having on the world. That the last four of five winners have been from our studio MFA is a credit to the calibre of our students and our faculty.”

Boulos is known for depicting the stories of her Palestinian ancestors through her art. Her prize-winning painting is titled In the Morning.

Her achievement was featured in the Globe and Mail.

Toronto-based Boulos joins previous U of G MFA grads Ambera Wellmann, Patrick Cruz and Titziana La Melia as up-and-coming artists who have won the prestigious prize. Wellmann’s painting Temper Ripened won in 2017. Cruz’s Time allergy took the prize in 2015, and La Melia’s Hanging on to the part won in 2014. U of G students were also finalists in 2009 and 2011.

The annual national competition is sponsored by RBC and Canadian Art magazine.

“I’m very thankful for the support RBC and Canadian Art has provided me, along with the chance to meet and build relationships with many emerging artists, peers and mentors,” said Boulos. “Opportunities like these enable creators to showcase their talents on a national scale and provide a platform to gain international exposure.”

In a statement, the competition’s jury called Boulos’s oil-on-panel painting “brave, nuanced, and powerful,” and a vibrant blend of personal and cultural mythologies.

In the Morning is rooted in family stories involving the Lebanese civil war and the 1948 war in Palestine. Reminiscent of the work of masters such as El Greco and Goya, the dreamlike painting is an amalgam of symbolic images — faded roses, disembodied hands and menacing bulls – conjoined in an inhospitable landscape.

“Painting is not passive; it can make one act, learn and feel, and it continues to be a unique method of knowledge exchange for both artists and audiences,” stated Boulos, who was also a finalist in the 2017 competition.

“I rely on painting to archive inherited ancestral knowledge and history while emphasizing that this information is not simple or univocal but instead endlessly complicated and constantly changing.”

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Besides being awarded a cash prize, winners receive associated awards, mentorship and education opportunities. Boulos will complete a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

All winning paintings in the competition become part of RBC’s corporate art collection.