|THE OPENING is all about delving into the fascinating, quirky and wonderful visual arts in Vancouver. Each week we’ll feature an artist, cover an exhibition, discuss a lecture and everything else in-between to delve deep into who and what makes art happen!|
In his 2005 book “Art Criticism and the Aesthetic Response”, American art critic Michael Brenson wrote about moments “when a connection is made between viewer and work that is intimate and intense enough to convince the viewer that that work, and art in general, is vital to his or her life.” (Fnews, 2005) Beauty and indispensibility are crucial factors in acclaimed Canadian photographer Edward Burtysnky’s extensive body of work, but the process of recognition occurs in reverse order to Brenson’s formula: Burtynsky confronts his viewers with what humans deem necessary and presents the effects in beautiful images.
Edward Burtynsky. Marine Aquaculture #1, Luoyuan Bay, Fuijan Province, China. 2012, chromogenic prnt. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist.
Since the early 1980’s, Edward Burtysnky has explored human impact on landscapes. From documenting simple railcuts through rockfaces, images of devastating oil spills and sprawling vistas of industry, his expansive, large-scale photographs are records of ways that we redefine nature by leaving our mark upon it. For decades, he’s travelled the world capturing images of large industries including oil and coal refining, mineral extraction, waste, fishing, and construction. Scale is intrinsically linked with Burtynsky’s ambitious depiction of vast environmental impact; his photographs are often shot from expansive aerial perspectives and presented with arresting detail.
Edward Burtynsky: A Terrible Beauty at the Vancouver Art Gallery features a full-floor show of 44 photographs by the renowned Canadian photographer, including 34 prints recently donated to the Vancouver Art Gallery by the artist. Running from March 1 – May 26, 2014, the exhibition divides the selected survey of his work into in four sections: Inhabited, Extracted, Manufactured and Abandoned. The overarching title “A Terrible Beauty” is fitting: Burtynsky’s photographs are formally enticing and often disturbing upon closer contemplation. Viewers often find themselves seduced by the eerie and serene formal qualities of his images before realizing their disturbing gravity; what may have first almost struck one as an abstract painting sits heavy at the moment of recognition. His photographs are posited in an interesting relationship to the history of painting; the exhibition is presented (whether intentional or not) in provocative contrast to Group of Seven member Lawren Harris’ landscape paintings of untouched, pristine mountain vistas currently on display on the first floor of the VAG.
Edward Burtynsky. Nickel Tailings #6, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, 1995, chromogenic print. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist.
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