MOCCA Award 2011 Edward Burtynsky Exhibition
Apr 16, 2011 - Apr 17, 2011


For over thirty years Edward Burtynsky has photographed the visual impactof industrial growth that humankind has etched upon our planet. The brief survey presented here in MOCCA’s project room takes our viewers through highlights from a range of his creative production.

“Although Edward Burtynsky understands that modern technologies can have devastatingeffects on the earth and its ecosystems, he believes that it would be hypocritical of him touse his photographs as a diatribe against industry. Yet he deliberately seeks out landscapesthat have been altered by ‘the pursuit of progress.’ Burtynsky is aware that we are allimplicated in the exploitation of the natural environment by industry. If we fly in planes,drive cars, or heat our homes, we are all consumers of natural resources.”

“Serving more as emblems of our times than as a clarion call for social change, Burtynsky’sphotographs are neither political missives nor simple exercises in colour and form. As acraftsman, he is concerned with the elements of composition, lighting, colour, and texture.As an artist who is aware of the impact of industry upon the environment, he is fascinatedby the way in which technology has inadvertently created sublime landscapes.” – extracted from, Seeing the Big Picture, by Lori Pauli, National Gallery of Canada.

PENTIMENTO is a series of black and white prints derived from damaged Type 55 Polaroidfilm produced originally as field-study photographs for his large-scale colour prints ofthe ship-breaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh. These images betray evidence ofBurtynsky’s compositional process and of the fragility of the Polaroid medium itself:blemishes, scratches in the emulsion and irregularities along the border of the negative.The project was conceived to include a limited edition folio set of the ten prints in thisseries, with accompanying hardcover book that juxtaposes the field proofs opposite theircorresponding colour image. Proceeds of this issue are used to support the collection ofcontemporary photography at the new Ryerson University Gallery and Research Centre.

“The image under the image: pentimento. It’s a word drawn from the scholarship ofpainting, and it describes where the artist has painted over a section of canvas yet thetraces of an earlier image persist, re-emerging over time. The under-painting rises upas a ghost into the final painting, revealing the process of how the painting came tobe. Borrowing from that context, I apply it to photography, a discipline redolent of time,memory and revelation.” –Edward Burtynsky


In 2010, Burtynsky photographed agricultural areas in Spain including Monegros, a hilly,semi-desert region with extreme climatic conditions. Drawn by the organic expansion offarming areas created by successive divisions of land, Burtynsky became fascinated with recordingthe extraordinary level of visual complexity of Monegros he saw from a bird’s eye view. Theresulting photographs represent some of his most abstract and painterly work to date.

Their rhythmic patterns and semi-figurative shapes resemble paintings by Dubuffet, Kandinsky,Picasso, Miró, Arp and Basquiat, as well as primitive art and cave paintings. Although these astonishing landscapes appear cosmic; the writhing lines, bold patches of colour, texture and rendition of detail in these compositions also suggest microscopic organisms. Burtynsky is internationally renowned for his large-scale photographs of industrial landscapes. After a decade-long exploration on the subject of oil, Burtynsky is now delving into another crucial resource: water. Agriculture is a key element in this subject since 70% of global fresh-water consumption is used to produce food.

Works from the Monegros series will form part of the Water project— release date to be announced.