Burtynsky at VAG

Yesterday we finally went out to see A Terrible Beauty: Edward Burtynsky which is in its last week at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It 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.

What a stunning exhibition with forty-four of this Canadian artist’s work, some of which I’ve seen in the past. The works are so very beautiful aesthetically, yet very shocking and disturbing once we realize what we are really looking at — the many examples of massive destruction of so much of this earth by industry, railroads, farming and other human activity.

Burtynsky is very particular about his images and does a great deal of research, planning and eventual manipulation on his photographs before printing in very large format. Sometimes they even look like paintings and they are all works of art, not just documentary photographs.

Most of Burtynsky’s exhibited photography (pre 2007) was taken with a large format field camera on large 4×5-inch sheet film and developed into high-resolution, large-dimension prints of various sizes and editions ranging from 18 x 22 inches to 60 x 80 inches. He often positions himself at high-vantage points over the landscape using elevated platforms, the natural topography, and more currently helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft… In 2007 he began using a high-resolution digital camera. (from wikipedia)

The timing of our visit did not work out for us to see his two films “The Manufactured Landscape” and “Watermark”.

Do visit Edward Burtynsky’s extensive website!


– watch the video above or on Vancouver Art Gallery’s site with an introduction by the artist and Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator

– another video and an excellent interview by Kevin Griffin in the Vancouver Sun, discussing the artist’s process

– a good article in Galleries West magazine, Spring 2014 issue, pages 32-26

– check out my previous posts in June 2004, May 2005, October 2006. Some links have since expired.

ADDED May 2nd: Our daughter Erika visited this exhibition with us. Please read her profound thoughts on it here.

May 20, 2014 in Art Exhibitions, Other artists, Photography by Marja-Leena