Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky. Sishen Iron Ore Mine #5, Tailings, Kathu, South Africa, 2018, pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional photo paper

Edward Burtynsky: African Studies opens next week at Flowers Gallery London

I’m finding new visual resonances emerging while photographing in Africa. As I evolve my use of the aerial perspective, in these recent pictures I am surveying two very distinct aspects of the landscape: that of the earth as something intact, undisturbed yet implicitly vulnerable… and that of the earth as opened up by the systematic extraction of resources.”

Edward Burtynsky

Flowers Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Edward Burtynsky produced across the African continent between 2015-19. Burtynsky’s works chronicle the major themes of terraforming, extraction, agriculture and urbanization, developing a long-standing preoccupation with the unsettling reality of the human imprint on the planet.

In African Studies, Burtynsky reflects on landscapes undergoing rapid industrial and manufacturing expansion. Focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa, his images present environments shaped by processes of resource extraction, from the salt pans of Senegal to the ‘residual landscapes’ of mechanized extraction such as Sishen Iron Ore Mine #5Tailings, Kathu, South Africa, 2018. Images of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD #8, Benishangul-Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, 2019) reflect an ongoing enquiry into the global theme of water and its related environmental and geo-political impacts.

Edward Burtynsky. GERD #8, Benishangul-Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, 2019. pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional photo paper

Alongside industrialised landscapes, Burtynsky presents images of the pristine natural environment as a reminder of its fragility and finitude, such as the rich sculptural topography of Sand Dunes #3, Sossusvlei, Namib Desert, Namibia, 2018; and the unaltered ecosystem of the Rift Valley in northern Kenya in Flamingos #1, Lake Bogoria, 2017. Photographed predominantly from aerial viewpoints, Burtynsky’s works often have a flattened frontal aspect, transforming the image into sumptuously graduating colour fields or vigorous grid-like compositions, strikingly reminiscent of Modernist abstraction. Presented at a large scale, and with compelling detail, their painterly surfaces and gestural marks reveal the coalescing designs of both nature and human infrastructure. Burtynsky’s perpetual search for abstraction within the landscape navigates a fine balance between form and content. He describes this dualistic approach as “keeping two doors open” for the viewer to enter the work – leading an enquiry into the expansive subject matter, while exploring the image as a mode of intuitive sensory expression. This exhibition coincides with the launch of African Studies, a new book by Edward Burtynsky, to be published in Autumn 2022 by Steidl.

Flowers Gallery

21 Cork Street

London W1S 3LZ

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