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Edward Burtynsky: Natural Order Portfolio

We are pleased to announce Edward Burtynsky's newest body of work, Natural Order, which he completed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global shutdown.


Burtynsky, together with Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto, will be donating $200,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the Natural Order portfolio to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) for the establishment of new acquisition funds dedicated to acquiring the works of emerging to mid-career Canada photographic artists.


Further details regarding this important initiative to support the Canadian photography community during the COVID-19 crisis will be made available in Fall 2020.




Humankind’s relationship to nature has always played a central role in my work. The powerful experience of being in untouched nature goes back to my boyhood in Canada, having spent memorable vacation days marveling at the wealth of natural beauty along the shorelines of remote lakes from a canoe in Algonquin park, or while hiking along trails through mature woodlands. Those years fostered in me an intimate connection with nature. It was then that I learned how to ‘see’; looking at and studying natural forms offered me a visual education of sorts. Those initial scenes that captured my attention first inspired me to paint and then later to photograph. I still retain a deep association with these early experiences.


In 1981, I ventured out on a shooting expedition, a road trip driving criss-cross through Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula and along the southern shores of Georgian Bay, the region where I first began photographing landscapes in earnest. During that Easter weekend in late April the snow was receding, revealing a dense tangle of matted grasses in what I refer to as quarter-colour tones. With the frenetic urgency of new growth, leafless bushes, vines and trees were pushing through one another, wrangling for light and warmth and space. I fell in love with the wild beauty of the area, so much so that by 1985 I resolved to purchase a piece of it. I wanted a property with which I could enjoy a long-term connection, and 35 years later my involvement with this place has become less about ownership and more about stewardship. This piece of land always draws me back and returns me to first principles: that we are of, and inseparable from, nature.


Over the past 40 years I have investigated our collective stranglehold on the natural world. Now the global community is experiencing just how quickly the tables can turn. In a few short weeks, and for the first time in memorable history, the world economy has ground to a halt, with business-as-usual suspended indefinitely. During this time spent in isolation and while reflecting on this historic moment and the gravity of these events, I have taken the opportunity to once again turn my lens to the natural landscape as subject matter.


The result is this new series, made during the time of year when the cycle of renewal exerts itself on the Earth. From the frigid sleep of winter to the fecund urgency of spring, these images are an affirmation of the complexity, wonder and resilience of the natural order in all things. I find myself gazing into an infinity of apparent chaos, but through that selective contemplation, an order emerges — an enduring order that remains intact regardless of our own human fate.


These images are all from a place called Grey County, Ontario. They are also from a place in my mind that aspires to wrest order out of chaos and to act as a salve in these uncertain times.


Edward Burtynsky

May 21, 2020