“We come from nature…There is an importance to having a certain reverence for what nature is because we are connected to it...If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.” – Edward Burtynsky
For nearly thirty-five years, the internationally-acclaimed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has been intently seeking unfamiliar territories as his subjects, where human activity has reshaped the surface of the land. Known for his artful, breathtaking, large-scale color photographs of the landscapes of mining, quarrying, oil refining, recycling and ship breaking, Burtynsky reveals an often graphic, almost sublime beauty in the residue of industrial “progress.” The implicit social and environmental disruptions that underlie all of the artist’s work allow each astonishing series to stand as a potent emblem of modern and contemporary life.
In “Selected Works,” several large-scale photographs from a range of series, anchor the space from five distinctive global locations: Bakersfield, California, British Columbia, Canada, Carrara, Italy, Bay of Cadiz, Spain and Jaen, Spain. In Carrara Marble Quarries #20, Burtynsky offers an uncommon view at an extraordinary height – one that overlooks the lush green dramatic mountain side, in contrast to the clear mark of Italy’s extensive marble quarries – a kind of industrial stage carved into the heart of the mountain. To the artist, the Carrara marble quarries are symbolic of quarries everywhere as the crucial source for the buildings society constructs - and as such, a negative correlative of what impact certain cultures have on the world as well as direct evidence revealing humankind’s seemingly unending dependence on its resources. Like Carrara, the photograph of the Bay of Cádiz, Spain, illuminates a very important area for industry, the population and the environment. Surrounded by rich agricultural hinterlands, the bay has, over the years, suffered pollution problems related to ship, offshore, car and aerospace manufacturing. Through Burtynsky’s poetic and often abstracted lens, such altered or marred landscapes surrounded by toxic waters become simultaneously stunningly beautiful and disquieting – with honest intent to entice the eye and speak to the soul. The artist states, “These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence. They search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion; seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire - a chance at a good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.”
Burtynsky’s visual language is hard won. To manifest his astounding and highly-influential photographs, the artist commits himself at great expense and at times physical risk. It is important to look through Burtynsky’s honest lens and realize that in the age of digitalization, his unaltered work is a direct experience - and as well, not restricted as documentary. Rather, Burtynsky is a groundbreaking artist who over the decades revealed to the world a new way to see itself. He is driven out of respect for his subjects to not only tell their story, but to equally balance each location’s inherent beauty and abstraction. In this manner, Burtynsky offers a true sense of lament surrounding the world’s harsh realities and though his attentiveness to color, complexity and form, also allows for a kind of redemption, by providing a renewed attention toward his sublime subjects. It is this rare artistic blend which has brought about a high level of global recognition for the work and secured Edward Burtynsky, as a major figure in contemporary photography.
Edward Burtynsky has B.A.A. from Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario and studied at Niagara College, Welland, Ontario. After establishing Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom lab, digital imaging center and new media computer training site, Burtynsky has gone on to be one of the Canada’s most respected and internationally recognized artists. His work is in the permanent collections of significant museums worldwide including, Canada, United States, United Kingdome, France, the Netherlands and Greece including Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal, Québec, Canada, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tate Modern, London, UK, Thessaloniki Museum of Art, Thessaloniki, Greece, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, UK Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, to name but a few of the esteemed institutions. In addition to having exhibited across the globe, his work is also in many notable corporate and private collections. Burtynsky has received recognitions and awards including numerous honorary degrees and awards for his photographs, films and publications. Edward Burtynsky’s work will be included in the upcoming Denver Art Museum exhibition entitled “New Territory: Landscape Photography Today, June 24 – September 16, 2018.