Ed Burtynsky’s Oil

publicity poster at The Rooms, Newfoundland, Canada

Ed Burtynsky publicity poster at The Rooms, Newfoundland, Canada

I’ve been an admirer of Edward Burtynsky’s work since I first saw the Manufactured Landscapes book, which has a permanent place on my shelf.
More recently Oil has joined it but I had barely had time to flick through its impressive pages before going on holiday to Canada. I spent a few days in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, and was surprised and delighted to see that Ed’s Oil pictures were on show at The Rooms art gallery. What a fantastic selection of images! In his typically understated style, Ed produces consistently strong individual images, usually from an elevated view point, which combine into a collection that highlights important issues about oil-dependent societies and poses significant questions for business, politicians and citizens the world over. And he does this without shouting at the viewer, which makes his messages and questions all the more powerful.
The composition of the images is consistently high but varied enough not to become boring. This make my eyes want to linger on individual images and also on the pairings and juxtapositions designed into the exhibition. The detail contained in these enlargements, which are typically 1.5m on the long edge, makes me want to look closer. Taking this time to look starts to make me see beyond the content to the message about the fundamental unsustainability of oil-based economies and processes that are predicated on continuous growth. To the question of “how do we get ourselves out of this addiction to oil?” there are no answers, but just the posing of the question by this exhibition is enough.
This well-curated exhibition and book deserve to be seen around the world for both it’s artistic and journalistic values. Thank you Ed, really good. No, brilliant!


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