Edward Burtynsky “Water”


poster for Edward Burtynsky “Water”

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“When you develop a concept that you want to follow, you move away from the randomness of taking photographs to the
idea of making photographs.” Edward Burtynsky

The highly anticipated release of Edward Burtynsky’s Water (2007 - 2013) will be exhibited at Flowers Gallery during October 2013. An overview of large-format colour photographs will go on view across two floors of the gallery. The exhibition will coincide with the launch of a new film Watermark co-directed with Jennifer Baichwal (released theatrically in Canada by Mongrel Media), and Burtynsky’s fifth book published by Steidl.

Water is the most recent instalment of the artist’s investigation into our continually compromised environment. Weaving together the various roles that it plays in everyday life, Burtynsky has undertaken an ambitious representation of water’s increasingly fragmented life cycle. Often from an aerial perspective, the photographs take on a unique abstraction and painterly quality. Many of the images focus our attention not on water itself, but on the systems that humans have put in place in order to harness, shape and commodify it. Water follows the format of previous projects such as Oil, China and Quarries in it’s encyclopaedic exploration of a broad theme through a series of connected chapters or locations.

The first chapter, Distress, serves as a warning to the absence of water, these photographs show evidence of spoiled water sources and scarification left on the land after its desiccation. Concentrating on the area surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and the Colorado River delta, Burtynsky captures phosphate run-offs, abandoned shrimp farms, and the brilliant aquamarine excretion of geothermic chemicals into Lake Cerro Prieto, Mexico. The second part of the project illustrates humankind’s manipulation of the natural environment, geometrically engineered to Control the substance of water. The photographs document monumental infrastructures ranging from irrigation channels and flood controls, to the creation of water reserves and colossal hydroelectric power projects.

Within Agriculture, Burtynsky uses Pivot Irrigation inTexas and Dryland Farming in Monegros, Spain as archetypal case- studies of large scale terraforming phenomena. Carved into dramatic patchwork patterns, human intervention has led to these mineral rich lands being bled of their natural resources. Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions. Parts of the world have seen a rapid development due to the increasing pressures put on natural fish populations. Here, Burtynsky turns his interest to China, where aquaculture has become an important economic activity.

In Waterfront, Burtynsky meditates on the socio-cultural element of our relationship with water, revealing a deep fascination with the way humans interact with their environment.This contemplation is crystalized through images of mass tourism in Benidorm, contentious habitation schemes in Cape Coral and The Kumbh Mela, a religious festivity at the junction of the sacred Ganges in India. In conclusion, Source highlights the efficiency and purity of healthy ecosystems and natural water cycles. As though etched or painted, erosion has weaved colourful river patterns onto dramatic landscapes. Spanning from the Sacred Headwaters in British Columbia to the volcanic deserts and glacier streams of Iceland, the photographs depict both the vulnerability of water at its foundations and the increasing threat of human expansion.

Both beautiful and haunting Burtynsky’s Water creates a compelling global portrait that illustrates humanity’s past, present and future relationship with the natural world and its most vital and rapidly depleting resource.



from October 16, 2013 to November 23, 2013

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