This exhibition by Christos Dikeakos is part of the Capture Photography Festival which is running for about a month here in Vancouver. At last some quality photographic exhibitions to see. As I said to my fellow OCA classmates on the OCA Photography Level 1 Facebook group if I could take a month off work, I might be able to cover about half the exhibitions on offer, but I don’t think I would be very popular at work if I did that. Dikeakos was a pupil of Ian Wallace, who was responsible for shaping the contemporary art scene in Vancouver, and he studied alongside Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham, a fact I only learned from Ian Wallace himself later that afternoon after having seen this exhibition.
I was rather intrigued when I first saw the advertising for this exhibition in an email announcement (it was advertised as photographs taken in and around the rural Penticton apple orchard that Dikeakos owns and remember thinking to myself ‘well its only apples, is it worth going?’ I should know by now not to have such preconceptions.
The exhibition was in the West Vancouver Museum, a beautiful stone building which was probably someone’s house at one time and it is the perfect location for exhibitions. Upon entering the locale I immediately learned from the wall text that the exhibition is a little deeper in concept that originally advertised. The catalogue states:
In art, the apple often appears as a mystical symbol – the forbidden fruit – emblematic of both our fall and paradoxically our redemption. Through his conceptual practice, Christos Dikeakos explores this notion of paradise lost using photographs of the altered landscape, represented here by the apple orchard. He examines social and political issues resulting from urbanization and, in the case of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, economic and other factors impacting the fruit industry.
I really liked the exhibition and found it quite informative. There is a definite narrative that runs through the images. Close up images of the pickers, followed by images of the fall around the trees, with even a couple of life size ratio photos set in the corner of the fall showing the apple fall on the ground just to the side as a top down view. The orchard is shown in the different seasons, harvest, pruning and during winter with the snow decorating the ground and branches. Photographs of the collected harvest and and an image of a huge apple pie rounded off the series. Even though this is a narrative series, the photographs were not displayed in a sequential order and I think this enabled the exhibition to keep the momentum allowing for surprises along the way. Two of the prints were displayed in ornate, gilt frames (see photo above) which seemed rather out of place with the rest of the exhibition and I did wonder about that, but I suppose they are pieces from another exhibition.
Dikeakos has a set of images which he entitled Haiku 1, 2 and 3 and they are reminiscent of Japanese cherry blossom images. The one that really resonated with me was of an apple branch set against a snowy background cutting diagonally across the frame which had a red apple a little to centre left and a couple of thinner twigs stretching out diagonally from behind the apple. The composition is so simple, yet so striking and strong, conveying the remarkable capacity of the fruit to thrive and survive in such conditions.
The exhibition is very sensory. One almost feels the smooth, cool skin of the apples, smells their fresh scent in the early morning after the rain and experiences the crisp coldness of the snow during winter. One gets the sensation that one is walking in the actual orchard. The colours are bright: reds, greens and blue abound. Some of the landscape photos even reminded me a bit of Stephen Shore’s work. A very fresh and vibrant body of work that left me marveling at the many ways apples can be portrayed.
Dikeakos, C. (2015). “Trouble in Paradise”. West Vancouver: West Vancouver Museum