Edward Burtynsky: The Human Signature

A fascinating and atmospheric photography exhibition is coming to Flowers Gallery, London, this autumn…

The Human Signature

Lithium Mines #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile 2017 (by Edward Burtynsky)

Flowers Gallery of London is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Edward Burtynsky. These works, created in collaboration with Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, stem from the artist’s Anthropocene Project, a multidisciplinary investigation into human impact on the planet. The Anthropocene Project debuts this fall with simultaneous museum exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada, a feature length documentary film, and a book.

The works on view demonstrate what Burtynsky calls the “indelible human signature” on the planet, caused by incursions into the landscape on an industrial scale. Chronicling the major themes of terraforming and extraction, urbanisation and deforestation, Burtynsky conveys the unsettling reality of sweeping resource depletion and extinction.
In these photographs, taken from both aerial and subterranean perspectives, and presented at a large scale, the patterns and scars of human-altered landscapes appear to form an abstracted painterly language. From the graduating tonal grids of turquoise and green-gold formed by the expansive lithium extraction ponds on the salt flats of the Atacama desert, to psychedelic fossil-like whorls formed by anthroturbation (human tunnelling) within the potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, they reference the sublime and often surreal qualities of human mark-making.

Carrara Marble Quarries #2, shown in the exhibition as a large-scale wall mural, is taken from a frontal perspective of one of the most renowned marble quarries in Carrara, Italy. The mural, measuring more than six metres long, is comprised of 122 exposures, capturing the magnitude of its cubed architecture with exceptionally high-resolution detail. In contrast, Pengah Wall #2 is an image of a coral reef roughly 60 feet deep, photographed in Komodo National Park, Indonesia, an area spectacularly rich in biodiversity. Captured underwater with a team of ten divers and composited from 160 high-resolution images, measuring a total of 200 square feet (precisely the size of the photographed area), this pristine all-over kaleidoscopic constellation offers a poignant counterpoint to images of the altered environment.
Also on view will be a photogrammetric augmented reality (AR) installation, extending the scope of the documentary image into three dimensions. In the installation, visitors will be invited to explore the artwork using a tablet, virtually recreating the three dimensional scene within the exhibition space.

Phosphor Tailings Pond #4
Near Lakeland, Florida, USA, 2012 (by Edward Burtynsky)

As part of the wider multidisciplinary project, Anthropocene is a new book by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, to be published in September 2018 by Steidl. Containing specially commissioned poems by Margaret Atwood published for the first time, a statement by each of the artists and a range of essays, Anthropocene presents compelling artistic and scientific responses to the urgent topic of humanity’s profound and lasting changes on the planet. The Anthropocene Project will run simultaneously at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from September 2018 to early 2019.

Edward Burtynsky

Portrait of Edward Burtynsky by Birgit Kleber c. 2012.

Edward Burtynsky’s works are in the collections of over sixty museums around the world, including Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim, New York; Tate, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and the National Gallery of Canada. Exhibitions have included Water (2013) at the New Orleans Museum of Art & Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, Louisiana (international touring exhibition); Oil (2009) at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (five-year international touring show), China (toured 2005 – 2008); Manufactured Landscapes at the National Gallery of Canada (touring from 2003 – 2005); and Breaking Ground produced by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (touring from 1988 – 1992).
Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier have created a trilogy of films – Manufactured Landscapes (2006), Watermark (2013), and Anthropocene (in theatres in select Canadian cities on October 5, 2018). Burtynsky received the inaugural TED Prize in 2005; and won the Tiffany Mark award in 2012. In 2006, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada; and in 2016 he received the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts. He holds six honorary doctorate degrees. His distinctions also include the National Magazine Award; MOCCA award; Outreach Award at Rencontres d’Arles; ICP Infinity Award; the Kraszna Krausz Book Award; and was honoured as Master of Photography at Photo London in 2018.


Edward Burtynsky:  The Human Signature

Flowers Gallery, 21 Cork Street, London, W1S 3LZ

17th October to 24th November (Private View:  16th October, 6-8pm)

See flowersgallery.com for further details.



[Credits:  Feature Image – Lithium Mines #1 by Edward Burtynsky (https://lecomptoirdetitam.wordpress.com/tag/desert/); Flowers Gallery Press Office; flowersgallery.com; edwardburtynsky.com; pinterest.com]



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