Edward Burtynsky’s environmental themes emerge with a harmonious new context at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

By Murray Whyte
Toronto Star 

Edward Burtynsky’s great big photographs ooze uncomfortable truth, though the artist himself, careful not to preach, once took a more ambivalent stance. But at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, where a few dozen of the 76 pictures he recently donated to the museum are now on view, an unintended synergy freights even his earliest images with the unleavened urgency they demand. Terrible beauty, Burtynsky’s esthetic calling card, remains present, never fear. But these days, terror comes first.

The Burtynsky show, Witness, is surrounded by Water Works, an engaging, alarming exhibition that largely concerns itself with the accreting perils of depleting, poisoning or otherwise contaminating our most precious resource. The AGH, for its part, cries coincidence, but, seriously: To get to his pictures, you have to first walk right through it. Taken together, they send alarm bells ringing: Effect, meet cause.

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