A Conversation with Edward Burtynsky

5 October 2016 § Leave a comment

This conversation is also published on CELLOPHANELAND

We are here at the Flowers Gallery at the preview of your new exhibition as well as the launch of your new book and here downstairs is an exhibition of the new Salt Pans series. Meanwhile in the upstairs gallery there is a second exhibition is entitled Essential Elements, and this also is the name of the new Thames & Hudson book written by William Ewing. Can you tell us some more about it?

This is an idea that began about five years ago. Thames and Hudson wanted to produce a book that would take a whole different approach to looking at my work. So Bill started coming to the studio about three years ago. He literally looked at almost everything i ever did – I gave him my binders where I keep all my work and contact sheets and so on so he had a complete look through everything. Interestingly of all the different people that have ever been to the studio he spent the longest of anyone. In all over a longer period of time Bill probably spent a total of over a month in the studio.

I understand that he took quite a different approach to make this book.

One thing I do is that I tend to work in series, like here with Salt Pans which is a complete and discrete series, shot over a period of time. I then would made in to a book and it is promoted around the world. However Bill wanted to disregard these series and was just looking at the images as he found fit. He was looking at the juxtapositions as it made sense conceptually, together or aesthetically or visually – colour wise, line wise, form wise, composition wise and so on.

Also interesting was that there was no chronology – he didn’t care whether it was early work or late work or whatever so mixed that up too. The third interesting thing that he did was that he took a whole body of work that has remained quiet up to now. This is a body of work that I have been working on my entire life which is architecture and design. I still use the things that I’ve learned in shooting architecture – I was shooting urban architecture in China for example. I have always had architecture as part of what I did as an artist, but its never been brought in to my convention artwork thus far. He interleaved that work as well and brought it in to the book to be seen into a different light.

Do you see this books as a mid-career retrospective. 

It is not really a retrospective per se – its really a way to look at the work and look at it from the sense of its visual subject matter and how they fit together. He found that even through all these different subjects there was a kind of persistence of vision and a consistency of seeing so that as I jumped across all these things there are things that carry over. He is taking us away from the content and more into visual aspects. Its been a real fun project.

He has also been looking at all the review and essays that have been done, and some dissertations that have been done of my work and found some really interesting excerpts. It is good to have these kernels of ideas that all come from different perspectives. So I’m really excited that this is the very first launch of the book and you are the first to see and first to experience

Edward Burtynsky Flowers Gallery Salt Pans Essential ElementsIs there something that you can tell us about working with Bill and about how personally you felt looking back at all this work and looking at all these different series.

It is really interesting. It is great to work with somebody who is able to look at you full body of work – a deep look at everything I have done. Sometimes he would unearth something and I would say yeah, its nice but not something I would want published! So sometimes we had to be able to navigate choices. In the book itself there are the very iconic works, but on the other hand, a lot of it – and I would say at least 50% – has never been published before. About 25% of it was completely new so there are some new pieces that we have discovered through working and collaborating with him

Did it make you think differently about the way you were working or make you change anything?

Interestingly I think that moment of real change happened for me in 2003. At that time I felt I was just working in discrete projects quarries, mines and so on. I was thinking that these were discrete things and at that moment I really saw the consistency of the subject matter. I then started seeing it all kind of stitched together that way. In the book what is interesting is seeing things that were never meant to be juxtaposed together.

For example we have in the exhibition a picture of Houston from 1987 and right beside it is a mined landscape from 2007. Even though there are twenty years between it is keeps you on your toes. Playing in all kinds of different ways there is a fundamental connection between the two images.

Did it make you reflect on the changes from analogue to digital, because during the period of the book there have been big changes in photography itself?

In some ways not really, because even though there was that transition from large format on the ground it is all about the image. Practically thought with analogue I would shoot two 8 x10 frames at a time and thats a whole ton of reloading. It was also really expensive – one holder would do just one shot, and this is in the early 90’s, costing $30 per frame before I even printed it up. It was a huge commitment for one picture – I would be sweating over what picture I was going to make!  I would maybe make two or three shots a day. I would sit there and wait for hours because back in analogue days if you didn’t get the contrast and light and clarity just so…! With film you just have to wait for conditions to be perfect – I would sometimes go back 2 or 3 times to the selfsame location for the same shot. Digital is very different. I’m in the helicopter and all I have to do is to put in one bit of media in and I get 300 frames – so all that happens is that have I sometimes have to change my battery,

Along with the increased resolution of digital there are also all the extra tools of editing software.

I have to say that I don’t use photoshop as a compositional tool – only as a printing tool. I am interested in the fact that these are visions of our real world. When i used to make prints in an enlarger I only had three controls: density, sharpness and colour. Now I get to control every square inch of the picture and so I’m controlling the surface of the print in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in an analogue way. Every square inch of the picture is being considered.There are all kinds of things that I can do today that I couldn’t do before. Its a whole new world as a print-maker.

I don’t even have an enlarger any more. When I went back and looked at earlier work for Essential Elements I had to scan them in and remaster. I would ignore the old master prints from that negative and then afterwards put those images side by side, and effectively they’re different images. Im getting the print that I wish I could have got back then! So the technology has been liberating

Over time you seem to have steadily moved away from your subjects. Are you worried about to some degree losing the hand of the artist/photographer as you do so?  

I dont know. I’ve gone up higher but you can make out farms and stuff but I’m interested in the fact that you can always go to the print and still understand the scale and see the people, if you look carefully. As soon as you go too high and can’t make out vehicles and people then that would become more pattern and more detached but I’m always trying to be at the critical distance where you can unpack the image and make out the landscape and still visually dig in and make out whats going on.

Edward Burtynsky Flowers Gallery Salt Pans Essential ElementsHow do you see the Salt Flats series? Is it a chapter in a larger project?

I think its a stand alone series. In Salt Flats this is a pretty benign effect we are having on the landscape – if is stopped within a decade you would never know anyone was ever there. I’m working on the anthropocene but it doesn’t really fit as the things that we are looking at are those that will leave a signature in a million years. where were leaving evidence from plastics, concrete, glass, tunnels and so on.

How did you come to shoot the Salt Flats series?

I’ve known about these things for a few years and I kept thinking I’ve gotta go so I decided – go! I was doing work in Africa and I had a window of 10 days between two shoots and so planned this shoot. I did about 4 flights. It’s a military zone so its very hard and took an lot of angling to get unlimited flying in their area. I was able to shoot on the ground but it wasn’t nearly as interesting. For me it was a visual exploration of this space. My work has never really been on that documentary level so I would not do a story on the people on their plight – this is about how we as humans extract resources. So it’s following from that sort of work, whether its mines, quarries, agriculture, salt – so its in that category.

Edward Burtynsky Flowers Gallery Salt Pans Essential ElementsThey are very abstract images. I think a lot of Paul Klee.

I love Paul Klee and was thinking Paul Klee in this! The subject allowed for this abstraction and I’ve always been interested in it. With my Water series in particular it allowed me to look at abstraction in a way that other subjects didn’t allow. With water when i first started in 2008 I rented an 80ft bucket and I realised very quickly that to understand the scale at which we start to reshape the landscape a bucket wasn’t enough. It didn’t tell the story so you had to get up 600/800 feet to to see the irrigation shaping the desert.You can sit on the ground and see the irrigation and farms but it doesn’t read as well as at 1000 feet – from that perspective you really understand. The subject matter pushed me up. When I’m up there I’m always always interested in abstraction and abstract expressionism and all-overness

Are you worried that these images just become viewed just like abstracts and any environmental angle gets lost?

These are pretty benign. With the Salt Pans I don’t think there is a great environmental message and I’m happy for people just to view them as they like. They are just whimsical.

 

Salt Pans and Essential Elements are showing at Flowers Gallery until 29 October 2016

All images are © Edward Burtynsky 2016. Courtesy Flowers Gallery, London / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto.

Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elementsedited and curated by William A. Ewing is published by Thames & Hudson, 15 September 2016, £45.00 hardback (www.thamesandhudson.com);

 

Derek Boshier Rethink/Re-entry Flowers Gallery London

19 November 2015 § Leave a comment

Pop art is very much alive and kicking. The World Goes Pop is currently at the Tate following on the heels of Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi Gallery, the BBC ran a recent series BBC Four Goes PopAllen Jones was at the Royal Academy and Richard Hamilton had a solo show at the Tate last year. That is not even to mention continuing interest in other artists like David Hockney on the edges of the movement.

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

Maybe it is because we are bored of the self referential world of post-modernism or perhaps there is a recognition of the present day relevance of the movement as we fight off an ever increasing barrage of media imagery. It could well be that Pop Art turns out to be modern art’s most influential movement, parodying all this mass media imagery whilst creating a startlingly prescient take on the world of today: the age of consumerism.

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

Within this apparent surge of interest the work of Derek Boshier has found a new lease of life. Recently featured on BBC4’s ‘What do artists do all day’ (a series that also featured Sir Peter Blake) he now has a solo show at Flowers Gallery which also coincides with the release of an excellent Thames & Hudson monograph (reviewed here).

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

The Rethink/ Re-entry exhibition features a fascinating range of rarely seen pieces, much from Boshier’s own collection whilst surveying the shifting emphasis of his art in the late sixties and early seventies. It re-examines his work of the period via the extraordinary variety of his practice – assemblages, collages, drawings, films, graphics and prints alongside more recent films and collages.

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

In thé ground floor gallery we see the sharp political edge of his work in works like The Stun (1979), a spoof tabloid front page bringing together the Queen and Irish Violence with an incisive wit. Meanwhile in Hi Consumers Don’t Forget Nothing Lasts Forever (1978) Boshier takes a wry shot at consumer culture.

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

Three perspex vitrines take a more conceptual angle and have a distinctly affinity with John Baldessari works of that time. King George V Avenue Cardiff from 1971 for example features a series of red circles and black columns lined in perspective along a found image of a broad street.

Derek Boshier_Rethink_Re-Entry at Flowers Gallery.

Boshier’s provocative and experimental approach was reflected within the gathering punk movement and also appreciated by David Bowie who commissioned him to work on LP sleeves, as well as stage set design. Featuring both on walls and vitrines are original drawings from Boshier’s collaborations with The Clash on graphics for the CLASH 2nd Songbook, and with Bowie for the 1979 album Lodger. He happily told Boshier ‘do what you like’ for the interior of the gatefold sleeve; Boshier obliged with a collage on mortality that Bowie loved.

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

His versatility continues with a neat Joseph Cornell style box from 1976, State of Mind, that makes a statement both on consumerism and politics combining a toiletry bottle and newspaper cutting featuring strikers.

Derek Boshier, State of Mind, 1976, Mixed media construction in box frame (c) Derek Boshier, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

Downstairs three series of photographed images are a different take on Hockney’s photo collages and Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip. From his 1978 Routes series a sequential strip of images introduce time as an element as the camera’s lens takes a ‘stroll’ at three different locations.

Boshier Install Rethink/Re-wind Flowers Gallery

In yet another media, film, Boshier’s 1973 Change is also showing, along with three more from 2014. In Change Boshier spliced sequences of still images from an installation at his Whitechapel Gallery retrospective of the same year. It remained unopened for 38 years, until its recent rediscovery provoked his desire to create new films using contemporary digital technologies.

Derek Boshier Rething/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery London

Last but not least are four collaged works from 2014, each edged with his trademark broad black lines.

Derek Boshier Rethink/Re-wind at Flowers Gallery

They look effortless and Boshier reminds us that his talent for drawing, eye for design as well as his desire to make works politically relevant are all still as strong as ever. He remains an important figure not only in the story of Pop Art but also in the contemporary art world.

Rethink/ Re-entry is at Flowers Gallery until 7 November 2015

For more information visit www.flowersgallery.com

Images courtesy of the artist, Flowers Gallery and CELLOPHANELAND*

jane edden, ornithomorph at flowers cork street

7 January 2013 § 1 Comment

In the downstairs gallery of Flowers Cork Street, and sadly also ending today, is a delightful exhibition from Jane Edden. A graduate of the late ’80’s Edden has gamely (no pun intended) and steadily produced an impressive and interesting body of work.

Jane Edden Flying JacketShe states that her work is “at the intersection of science and aesthetics: a hybrid space where technological concerns meet the seductiveness of natural imagery. Upholding this ethics of hybridity and permissiveness, I try not to limit my materials, allowing myself to weave technology into images of nature or to source organic matter directly.” Sounds like the sort of statement that the very latest round of ecologically-oriented art college graduates would be making and very much in the zeitgeist of the moment. Who knows, we could be seeing much more of her in years to come.

Jane Edden Flying JacketThis exhibition fits almost seamlessly with the Small is Beautiful show upstairs with a host of absolutely beautiful and immaculately made tiny flying jackets. Yes, I did say flying jackets, but these are unbelievably finely crafted from bird feathers – one would hope ethically sourced with no recourse to the gun-toting morons of the shootin’, huntin’ an fishin’ brigade.Jane Edden Ornithomorph

Jane Edden OrnithomorphDespite the almost-too-clever word play of the title Flying Jacket the skill and craft in making these stylish little works immediately wins you over. You might like the 29 Lockheed F-94 Starfire made from partridge feathers or perhaps prefer the 28 Gloster Gamecock from duck feathers. Some have extra padded shoulders or a little skirt, but all are stunning.

Jane Edden OrnithomorphSome neat bird-related drawings, prints and sculptural installations rounded off the avian theme but the little fathered jackets won the day!

IMG00373-20130104-1313Jane Edden, Ornithomorph 7 Dec 2012 – 5 January 2013 Flowers Gallery

small is beautiful at flowers cork st

5 January 2013 § Leave a comment

Unfortunately I only made it to this annual group exhibition just before it closed. This is the latest in their regular series of Christmas shows featuring a delightful selection of smallish works – no surprise there of course – from no fewer than 78 artists.

IMG00362-20130104-1308For those of you unfamiliar with the gallery ethos, this is one of the most established of the contemporary art galleries that has since 1970 promoted good value art from emerging and established artists. Recently there has been increasing emphasis on photographic works, and there a few here amongst a selection of mostly oils but also sculptures and watercolours.

IMG00365-20130104-1309As would be expected from a top gallery there are lots of well known and well-respected names: Maggi Hambling, Ishbel Myerscough, Julie Cockburn, Andrew Logan, John Kirby, Ken Currie and many more. One of those is Nadav Kander whose exhibition at the same Mayfair Gallery is coming up after this ‘Small’ show. His works tread the line between attraction and repulsion and this flabby nude is no exception.

IMG00366-20130104-1309Dina Brodsky’s Vacant was another impressive work. An immaculately detailed and enigmatic empty room painted in oil. I also liked Tai Schan Schierenberg’s  Skull, thick in gloopy paint – a sort of 3D Kossoff.

IMG00364-20130104-1308

There were lots more attractive works which had sadly, it seems, not sold that well – if the red dots were anything to go by that is. Perhaps they were too cheap, since by all accounts the wealthy are still splashing out at the big galleries and fairs. Still, a show to look out for next Christmas for those last minute gifts. Meanwhile,dont’t forget to put the Nadav Kander show dates in your diary!

IMG00363-20130104-1308Small is Beautiful XXX was at Flowers Cork St,  7 December 2012 – 5 January 2013

Nadav Kander BODIES: 6 Women, 1 Man, 11 January – 9 February 2013

 

 

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