The Orchids / Had the Look of Flowers That Are Looked At


The Orchids / Had the Look of Flowers That Are Looked At

An exhibition by Arvo Leo
Curated by Jesse Birch and Emma Sise

Join us for the opening reception June 22 at 7 pm
June 23 to July 22, 2018

Each species of orchid has cunningly evolved its appearance, and its fragrance, to attract a specific pollinator to aid in sexual reproduction. Yet somehow they also attract us, and our encounters with them have shaped both botanical and human cultures. In Arvo Leo’s film The Orchids / Had the Look of Flowers That Are Looked At these flowering plants assert their agency in a human-centric world. Plants and films both need light and time to exist, and through stop-motion animation, cyanotype photography, and sculptural installation, orchids spring to life, meddling with the environment they’re constrained to; frolicking, creating, and destroying with self-determination and amusement.

The history of the orchid involves layers of colonialism, economic activity, and cultural beliefs that intersect centuries and continents. Arvo Leo has not only been engaged with these histories, but also with the everyday relationships between orchids and people, tending daily to the orchids in his studio, and actively participating as a member of the Nederlandse Orchideeën Vereniging (Dutch Orchid Society). Leo has also made connections in Nanaimo, and throughout the exhibition, living orchids will be in the foyer of the gallery through a special collaboration between the artist and the Central Vancouver Island Orchid Society.

Speaking of and with these wild domestic plants, The Orchids is the second exhibition in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks the question: How can we speak differently? through exhibitions, educational programs and off-site events. For The Orchids, we also present a series of public events called The Surroundings, which includes a poetry reading at Buttertubs Marsh, and a film screening at Bowen Park.   

Arvo Leo grew up in Roberts Creek, BC, and carries a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, and an MFA from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. He is currently enrolled as artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Leo is also one of five artists from the West Coast and Yukon to be longlisted for the 2018 Sobey Art Award.

Emma Sise's curatorial internship at Nanaimo Art Gallery is funded by an Early Career Development grant through the British Columbia Arts Council.

Image: Arvo Leo, Vanda Orchid With Knives, 2018, digital photograph 

The Orchids Exhibition Guide

Gallery Tours

Saturday, June 23, 2 pm, FREE

Join us for a personal and engaged tour of The Orchids / Had the Look of Flowers That Are Looked At with artist Arvo Leo.

Tuesday, July 3, 12 to 1 pm, FREE

Join Gallery staff over the lunch hour for a discussion based tour. 


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Sun: 12 - 5 PM



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