Text Kate Barron
Photo Clayton Perry
Standing in Garden City Park in Richmond, British Columbia, a woman asks Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos where she can pick up a blue tree for her yard. Smiling, he chuckles and lets her down gently as he begins to tell her the story of his electric blue trees.
For two years, the Vancouver Biennale has brought Vancouver some of the best public art that the world has to offer to their self-titled “open-air museum.” Their latest and final installation leading up to their auction and gala on April 30th is Dimopoulos’s Blue Trees.
Art lovers, environmentalists, and even some critics are just a few of the people who have been drawn to the brilliant blue forests that have sprung up in three BC cities. The reactions are overwhelmingly positive, especially after speaking with Dimopoulos and learning about his mission to highlight the trees we pass by daily and fail to notice. Dimopoulos is engaged in “social art action.” Onlookers typically stare intently for a period of time as they visibly struggle with their perceptions of a strange new environment in which they find themselves. Blue trees don’t exist, but here they stand.
Contemporary art often questions the way in which we view the world, and public art directly challenges the built environment that we have become accustomed to, asking us to pause and take note of our new environment.
“Colour is a powerful stimulant, a means of altering perception and defining space and time. The fact that blue is a colour that is not naturally identified with trees suggests to the viewer that something unusual, something out of the ordinary has happened. It becomes a magical transformation,” says Dimopoulos when asked why he chose the blue for his trees.
The beauty of Dimopoulos’s trees is the fact that the biologically safe pigmented water he applies will gradually fade over time, and those same onlookers who have come to terms with this surreal blue forest in their community will slowly observe the trees reverting to their natural state.
With children literally running up to the trees shouting, “Wow, they’re real!” as they wave their families over, Dimopoulos’s happiness is evident. “I know I’m not going to solve our global deforestation issues or cure cancer, but maybe one of the kids who play amongst my blue trees will. Art inspires people–that cannot be underestimated.”
Born in Egypt, world traveller Dimopoulos now resides in Australia and is often caught referencing the prophetic Joni Mitchell as he explains his installations. His growing body of work continues to be seen around the world, and he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. CA
Kate Barron is the co-founder of theartmarket.ca, the newest and most comprehensive online source of information for Canadian art. She currently works with the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale and is a freelance arts contributor for multiple publications.