Toronto-based photographer Edward Burtynsky is internationally renowned for his captivating images of natural and man-made landscape that reflect both the impressive reach of human enterprise and the extraordinary impact of our hubris.
A Terrible Beauty: Edward Burtynsky is a focused survey of photographs the artist produced between 1983 and 2013, and represents all key bodies of his work, such as early series of homestead and rail line photographs shot in British Columbia in the early 1980s, his documentation of the extraordinary growth and transformation of China in the past decade and a new, groundbreaking international project that is focused on the subject of water.
The exhibition presents forty-four photographs from the Gallery’s permanent collection, including thirty-four new acquisitions, highlighting many of the key subjects the artist has photographed in British Columbia (mines, railways and shipping ports) along with well-known photographs of industrial landscapes in China, Bangladesh and North America. Many of the pictures in this exhibition are drawn from Burtynsky’s new body of work, begun in 2008, called Water. Looking back on this project, Burtynsky recently described the impetus that shaped its research and production: “I wanted to understand water: what it is, and what it leaves behind when we’re gone. I wanted to understand our use and misuse of it. I wanted to trace the evidence of global thirst and threatened sources. Water is part of a pattern I’ve watched unfold throughout my career. I document landscapes that, whether you think of them as beautiful or monstrous, or as some strange combination of the two, are clearly not vistas of an inexhaustible, sustainable world.” (Walrus, October 2013)
Burtynsky’s photographs will be placed in dialogue with a smaller selection of paintings and drawings by Emily Carr from the Gallery’s permanent collection. Carr too observed the impact of human industry on the natural world in some of her best-known works.
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator