PREVIEW: Drawing From Life – Brian Boulton’s Streetwise Beauty

The texture of a pair of jeans, the folds of a leather jacket, the draping of a canvas bag – all of these everyday objects, are the subjects of Brian Boulton’s work. Referenced from his own digital photographs, the artist uses graphite to render, in hyper-realist detail, anonymous subjects in the kind of street clothes we see daily. Without names, faces, or even background details, the full-body figures—all male—are caught unaware, usually from behind—about to cross a street, in the midst of a conversation, walking. With no context other than a frame and white backdrop—without the urban environment in which they would blend—Boulton’s pedestrians pop out at the viewer. Our attention becomes focused on the details of strangers. An underlying sensuality emerges in their inhibition. The unknown figures have a subtle but undeniable appeal.

In his latest show, Boulton is exhibiting a new series of portraits, the type that his rapidly growing following has come to expect, but also examples of his work’s new directions. Seven of the pieces are anonymous—the subject facing away, nameless. But three new ones are of one subject in particular, Boulton’s muse, who is turned slightly towards us. A life-size piece, every fold, crease and stitch drawn in real-space, will greet gallery patrons as the Winsor Gallery presents Brian Boulton: Drawings, November 4 – 29, 2009.

The artist began the series 10 years ago as a natural confluence of two interests he has had since he was a teen: photography and drawing.

After studying architectural rendering at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, BC, Boulton moved to Vancouver. Here, he studied Film and Art History at Langara College and immersed himself in the arts scene. He has been employed in the arts and worked in galleries and with other artists for over 30 years.

A significant turning point was assisting his friend and mentor Attila Richard Lukacs. “It was supposed to be for two weeks, and turned into two years,” says Boulton. “To go into a studio with him, it was like throwing on a switch in my brain. I thought, ‘This is how to work. This is a working studio’.”

Lukacs was an early supporter—as early as possible, considering Boulton didn’t begin to draw seriously until he started his series of anonymous street portraiture. “I’d always avoided what I do best,” he says.

Drawing in Vancouver has recently resurged, with the success of this past summer’s Drawn Festival. The three-week event featured the work of dozens of artists displayed in multiple Vancouver-area galleries and museums in the first exhibit of its kind in Canada.

To Boulton, drawing connects with people in a very basic way. “People have a desire to be entertained, and a desire, especially now, to connect with art. Drawing does that automatically.”  However, it is the combination of Boulton’s technical mastery and provocative subject matter, which grabs the viewers’ attention.

“As an emerging talent who creates sophisticated work, Brian Boulton embodies everything we look for in an artist at the Winsor Gallery,” says Jennifer Winsor. “His work is striking in its simplicity, while at the same time beguiles viewers with his drawing skills.”

A long-time people watcher, Boulton sums up his feelings about his work in a simple statement.

“It’s not the infrastructure that makes a city,” says the artist. “It’s the people.”

Brian Bolton: Drawings runs at the Winsor Gallery, 3025 Granville Street, from November 4-29.

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