John Dickson, Shadow of the Vampyre, Installation detail.

John Dickson, Shadow of the Vampyre, Installation detail.

JOHN DICKSON: FROM LIGHT TO DARK: November 28 - December 31, 2011

Central to John Dickson's exhibition, From Light to Dark, are two live-feed video sculptures, each taking a film as a starting point: Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and Werner Herzog's Nosferatu. In both films there is a journey which leads the protagonist into a dark and dangerous place. Apocalypse Now depicts an expedition up a river to assassinate Colonel Kurtz, a brilliant madman who has immersed himself in savagery during the Vietnam War. In Nosferatu the protagonist must travel into the Carpathian Mountains to deliver real estate documents to Count Dracula. The linear nature of these narratives made them suitable for his re-rendering using models, motors and live-feed cameras.

Redux (2009) is a distillation of key elements of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now (which was based upon Conrad's novel), compressing the narrative into 4 1/2 minutes. A miniature video camera tracks back and forth past a series of mundane items, live-feeding to an adjacent television, where the plastic plants, mirror and upholstery stuffing are transformed into jungle, river and fog. The disjuncture between the mundane objects and the images viewed on the screen, necessitates a back and forth investigation on the part of the viewer. While Apocalypse Now examines the insanity and savagery of war, Redux re-renders the story as a journey into a ravaged wilderness. 

Shadow of the Vampyre (2010) is structured after a portion of Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (which is a remake of Mernau's 1922 version) - specifically the scenes in which the protagonist makes his way through the Carpathian Mountains and enters Count Dracula's castle. In this work the camera is stationary while pieces of a mountain model (originally part of a diorama from the Ontario Science Centre) move past on a rotating circular table, creating an endless, looping narrative. Although the work is based on a vampire movie, only the vampire's shadow is seen, and only briefly. It is less about vampires and more of a metaphor for our journey through life towards death and the unknown.

The drawings are primarily derived from stills from the two films, highlighting the source imagery for the sculptural works. Black spray paint was used to approximate the subtleties of light and atmosphere, while adding a graininess similar to that of film. Once this project began, the subject matter expanded naturally to encompass related images based on war, death and disintegration, dark themes that recur frequently in the artist's work.