Bearing witness: Edward Burtynsky captures humanity’s impact on the natural world

Photographer’s large-format photographs are displayed at Saatchi Gallery as part of the exhibition BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction

Saturday 09 March 2024 06:00 GMT
Salinas #2 , Cádiz, Spain, 2013
Salinas #2 , Cádiz, Spain, 2013 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)

Edward Burtynsky, with a career spanning over four decades, has become synonymous with capturing the profound impacts of human industry on Earth. This theme takes centre stage in the recently opened exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, titled BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction – the largest exhibition to date of works by the Canadian photographer.

Curated by Marc Mayer, former director of the National Gallery of Canada and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the exhibition spans two floors and is organised into five thematic sections: Abstraction, Agriculture, Extraction, Manufacturing & Industry, and Waste. Featuring 94 large-format photographs, 13 high-resolution murals, and an augmented reality (AR) experience, BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction offers a profound narrative on humanity’s incursion into the natural world, and the environmental consequences of industrial processes.

Oil Bunkering #9 , Niger Delta, Nigeria, 2016 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)
Nickel Tailings #34 , Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, 1996 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)
Uralkali Potash Mine #1 , Berezniki, Russia, 2017 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)

A standout feature of the exhibition is the 22-minute multimedia experience, In the Wake of Progress, co-produced with music producer Bob Ezrin. This immersive presentation, four decades in the making, weaves together Burtynsky’s powerful visuals and Ezrin’s award-winning music to immerse audiences in the story of human industry’s impact on Earth.

Burtynsky in Belridge, California, USA, 2003 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)
Burtynsky on the Bonneville Salt Flats, USA, 2008 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)
Burtynsky with Jim Panou in Agbogbloshie Recycling Yard, Accra, Ghana, 2017 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)

The exhibition will also highlight both local and national organisations that are making positive contributions to the areas of sustainability, biodiversity loss, conservation, and climate change through a dedicated interactive space and online materials.

As visitors engage with Burtynsky’s work, they are not only invited to appreciate the beauty of his compositions but also compelled to reflect on the collective responsibility humans bear towards the planet and the imperative to shape a more sustainable future.

Tailings Pond #2 , Wesselton Diamond Mine, Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa, 2018 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)
Cathedral Grove #1 , Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, 2017 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)
Thjorsá River #1 , Iceland, 2012 (Edward Burtynsky/Flowers Gallery)

BURTYNSKY: Extraction/Abstraction is on display at the Saatchi Gallery until 6 May

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