Sunday, 3 June 2012

Burtynsky: Oil

Verdict: Go see it
When: 19 May - 1 July

The photographer's gallery has always had a prime location just off Oxford Circus, but now thanks to a sizeable renovation they have a building to match it.

The top two floors are the main exhibition spaces and the opening salvo is a set of Edward Burtynsky's photographs around the central theme of oil.

He covers all aspects of oil including the vast mechanistic fields of 'nodding donkey' oil pumps. These act as both a reminder of our impact on the environment, as the ground around them looks desolate, and the achievements of humanity in creating such a powerful assembly line. This duality continues throughout the exhibition.

His mastery of the aerial shot is evident in both the aeroplane graveyards and the view of a intertwining motorway junction that sprouts a single road that seems to cut through the city and off into the distance.

A rarely seen angle to our era of mass production is what happens to massive ships at the end of their lives and the pictures of Bangladeshi workers stripping them into component parts is a reminder that though we produce so many modes of transportation, they don't all go to waste - unlike the massive tyre mountains in the US.

No survey of oil is complete without oil spills and this is where the environmental message of Burtynsky's work comes to the fore. The shot of two boats spraying dispersants onto an oil spill is oddly enchanting, due to the rainbows created by the sprays and the rich texture of the water that makes you want to lean in and touch the photograph.

Even though their is a strong message in this exhibition, the beauty of the photographs alone merits recommending that everyone should see Burtynsky's work.

Edward Burtynsky is also displaying some of his photographs at Flowers gallery.