Born in the Lebanese capital of Beirut in 1963, to a French father and a Bolivian mother, Karine Boulanger was raised in Paris where art played a central role in her upbringing. “My earliest memories are of sitting in our apartment next to my mother, a pencil or a paintbrush in my hand,” she recalls. When she was nine, her father opened an art gallery in the Marais district, “...and I remember visiting artists in their ateliers, going with my father to museums and gallery openings”.
Growing up between two cultures, Karine was something of a dreamer. She was passionate about Latin American writing, especially that of Gabriel García Marquez, Ernesto Sábato, and Alejo Carpentier. The moment of catharsis would come at age 23, at an exhibition of Nicaraguan painter, Armando Morales in Paris. “It was like a revelation, I had to study painting!”
And so Karine Boulanger moved to Bolivia, to discover her roots and to apprentice in the atelier of painter Gonzalo Rodriguez, in La Paz. Returning a year later to Paris, she was admitted to the atelier of Leonardo Cremonini at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts.
This dual influence of Latin America’s ‘magical realism’ and European classicism would mark her work from her very first shows, in France, Bolivia and the United States from 1992. But in 1997 a chance encounter with an exhibition of Byzantine art in New York would hold sway on her work from then on. Impassioned by the luminosity in Byzantine painting, she began to introduce copper and aluminium leaf as an evocation of space, a metaphor for the quest after inner illumination. “In this way,” says Karine, “light emanates from the canvas, the work becomes a search for the essential.”
In 2010, Karine moved to Sydney, Australia with her family. Once again, her work underwent an evolution in reaction to a radically new, unfamiliar environment. “It happened quite naturally,” she says. “Without planning it, space has once again become important in my paintings. Particularly in this latest series, called Bushfires. Colour has also reappeared, a necessary response to this landscape, bathed as it is in light.”
Traces of magical realism, Byzantium and European classicism are still in evidence in Karine’s large-scale canvases, perhaps mitigated somewhat by this new, frank luminosity and robust colour palette. Karine Boulanger’s art, like her life, is a process of constant evolution.