Blue trees give Ambleside a jolt of colour
As he stands on an empty gravel lot overlooking West Vancouver’s Ambleside beach, Konstantin Dimopoulos looks a little blue.
From head to toe, the Australian-born artist is covered in splatters and splotches of a colourful wash he’s using to paint cherry blossom trees his signature shade of “electric blue.”
There’s blue paint matted into the stubble on his face, dried to his bottom lip, and dyed into the wavy grey strands of his hair.
But for Dimopoulos, it all goes hand in hand with the message he’s trying to spread about the dangers of global deforestation and how we should be treating our trees and forests.
“I’m happy to paint myself. That’s part of the whole thing. I wouldn’t do anything to a tree that I wouldn’t do to myself,” he says. “We need to start thinking differently about trees.”
Last week, Dimopoulos brought his public art installment to the corner of Marine Drive and 14th Street as part of the Vancouver Biennale.
All told, he coloured six trees blue using a biodegradable, water-based wash that could last up to a few months, depending on weather. In recent weeks, he also painted 18 trees in Port Moody and 21 in Richmond.
The brightly coloured trunks and limbs, he says, are intended to get people to slow down in the “rush through their daily lives” and consider the role trees play on our planet.
A few years ago, Dimopoulos says he began to worry about the devastating effects of deforestation in areas such as southeast Asia, the Amazon, and Canada’s boreal forest.
The blue tree project, he says, was created in an effort to raise consciousness of the problem. His goal is to paint one million trees blue in the next decade. In doing so, he hopes his idea will plant the seed in the minds of others, giving root to even more initiatives.
“For me, it’s all about getting ideas out there,” he says, while dipping his paintbrush into a bucket of wash. “This idea could spark another idea, which could help solve the problem... as an artist, that’s the kind of lasting impact I want my work to have. I want to leave a forest behind.”
Each year, says Dimopoulos, the planet loses a swath of forest the size of Belgium. This, he says, is something we need to stop if we want to leave behind a healthy planet for our children.
“We shouldn’t allow people to touch those forests,” he says. “We have to say, ‘That’s our inheritance. That’s our family.’”
Dimopoulos says he chose the vibrant blue colour because of the “surreal environment” it creates once the blossoms are in full bloom.
“When people see photos online they sometimes accuse me of using Photoshop to colour them. I wish I could use Photoshop. It would be a lot easier,” he laughs.
By creating something so eye-catching, he says, you get people talking. In fact, while he was out painting near Ambleside, he could barely go five minutes without someone stopping to ask him about what he was doing — and why.
“And that’s exactly why I’m out here. Their interest is a sign that it’s working,” he says.
Don Vaughan, vice president of the West Vancouver Community Arts Council, was one of many residents to stop by last Wednesday to chat with Dimopoulos about the project.
Vaughan is hopeful the project, on the site of the proposed Grosvenor development, is only the first of many to hit the streets of West Vancouver.
“Hopefully this is the beginning of West Van becoming a more cultural city,” says Vaughan. “Public art and architecture is the face of a community. We live in a very special place, and art is a huge part of our community, but until now it’s been kind of hidden.”