“ANTHROPOCENE” EDWARD BURTYNSKY AT CHRISTOPHE GUYE GALLERY
The ‘Anthropocene’ Project is a multidisciplinary body of work by Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky combining fine art photography, film, virtual reality, augmented reality, and scientific research to investigate human influence on the state, dynamic, and future of the Earth. The exhibition at the gallery focuses on fine art photography from the series ‘Anthropocene’, dating from 2012 to 2017 as well as on the film.
The works highlight the artist’s visual exploration into the global consequences of coastal erosion, logging, mining, and industrial agriculture with subjects ranging from the surreal phosphate rock deposits mined near Lakeland Florida to the psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains.
Born in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1955 and based in Toronto, Edward Burtynsky is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished contemporary photographers. He received his Bachelor of Applied Arts in Photography and Media Studies from Ryerson University in 1982, and in 1985 founded Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom photo laboratory, digital imaging and new media computer-training centre catering to all levels of Toronto’s art community. Early exposure to the sites and images of the General Motors plant in his hometown helped to formulate his photographic work.
Burtynsky’s ‘Anthropocene’ explores the collective impact we as a species are having on the surface of the planet; an inspection of the human systems we’ve imposed onto natural landscapes. He has turned his lens on the terrible beauty of industrial interventions in nature such as mining, quarrying, manufacturing, shipping, the production of oil, and recycling.
The title ‘Anthropocene’ refers to a proposal circulating in the scientific community to formally recognize the commencement of a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change.
‘We have reached an unprecedented moment in planetary history,’ stated Burtynsky. ‘Humans now arguably change the Earth and its processes more than all other natural forces combined.’
For ‘Anthropocene’, Burtynsky travelled to every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, and visited twenty countries including Canada, Chile, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Spain and the United States. Often shooting from his signature bird’s-eye view using airplanes, helicopters and drones, his large-scale photographs are rich in detail and vast in scale, sometimes verging on the appearance of painterly abstractions. His images strike an intricate balance between a sombre reportage and a powerfully seductive aesthetic. ‘Anthropocene’ reflects the dilemma between society’s desire for prosperity and its impact on the environment.
‘Humans have always taken from nature. This is normal, part of the human condition, and, indeed, a fact of life for all life forms. What is different now is the speed and scale of human taking, and the Earth has never experienced this kind of cumulative impact. If my images appear surreal at times, it must be remembered that they depict our extractive world as it is.’ – Edward Burtynsky
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