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Edward Burtynsky’s Extraction / Abstraction exhibition at Saatchi Gallery shows the ingenuity and devastation of humankind

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Edward Burtynsky's Extraction / Abstraction exhibition at Saatchi Gallery shows the ingenuity and devastation of humankind

In his largest ever retrospective, titled Extraction / Abstraction, Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky showcases the myriad ways humans have impacted our planet.

Burtynsky’s large-format images, often shot from above, appear abstract with few points of reference to understand their scale. But draw closer and a devastating reality becomes apparent. Humans have scarred these landscapes through extraction, be that mining, the construction of cities and roads, the depositing of waste or farming practices. “I’m showing you these worlds in a way that you’ve probably never seen them,” says Burtynsky. His aim is to “evoke maybe even a sense of wonder of the ingenuity of humankind, but also the troubling aspects of what we’re doing as well”.

However, Burtynsky hopes that people come away feeling positive “that we can solve these problems that we’ve created so cleverly”, he says. “We have all the technology and tools that can solve the problem at our disposal. We’ve already invented it”.  He only wishes we’d started using these tools sooner.

Extraction / Abstraction is on show at the Saatchi Gallery in London until 6 May. Another exhibition, showing Burtynsky’s New Works, is on show at Flowers Gallery in London from 28 February until 6 April.

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