Edward Burtynsky at Flowers Gallery, London

Dryland Farming, copyright Edward Burtynsky


Earlier this week, I took a fairly brief look at the current Edward Burtynsky show at Flowers Gallery in Cork Street. Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who has built his reputation with photographs of large scale industrial landscapes, organised into themes which he has explored over many years. Some of these are consolidated into large scale photographic books, i.e. Oil and Quarries.  You can find his books in the photographic sections of large bookshops and they provide an affordable way into a large and interesting body of work.

These pictures represent part of a major new theme he is exploring. To quote from the press release, “Edward Burtynsky’s latest series Dryland Farming depicts the agricultural region of Monegros, Spain; a semi-arid terrain, sparsely populated and prone to both droughts and high winds.These large photographic works feature an expanse of meandering and grid-like patterns made visible from Burtynsky’s 2,000 ft. vantage point; exposing the vivid palette found within the layers of the land.

Burtynsky was drawn to areas that reveal the effects of traditional farming methods practised over many generations. Capturing this vast topography with his renowned clarity and rendition of detail, these works convey the complexity of the land’s cultivation.The land mass is largely sedimentary rock, gypsum and clay-rich soil – these soft mineral compounds are extensively carved out by continuous agricultural expansion and eroded by the extreme climate. As befits Burtynsky’s fascination with the on-going examination of humanity’s ecological footprint, Dryland Farming exposes the extent of alteration to the area of Monegros, through the vast variety of interlocking segments and geometric divisions.

Dryland Farming is part of an extensive body of work entitled Water, to be completed in 2013″.

I assume these pictures were taken from the air and they provide a fascinating, abstract topography. Indeed you have to look quite closely to see that there are roads and buildings in the pictures and they are not just abstract, painterly images. I found the overall impression quite remarkable although the scale of the photographs and the distance of the photographer from the subject does mean that there is little sense of depth or field or sharpness. I found then interesting pictures rather than great photographs. Still, they are well worth a look if you are in the area.