This week I visited a photography exhibition at the newly refurbished Photographers’ Gallery, (click on the name – my links don’t appear to be working…), just off Oxford Street.  I went to see the breathtaking work of Edward Burtynsky – his new exhibition entitled ‘Oil’.

This Canadian photographer has spent the last 12 years travelling the world taking photographs of the oil industry, from the discovery of oil through the production process to the ‘vast junk-pile cemeteries that house the detritus of our petroleum economy’ – Burtynsky.

The work was indeed astounding both in its size, through the use of a 5″x4″ full format camera, and its scope.  The colour was amazing with full depth of field from the front to the back of the enormous canvases.  I could have stood in front of one picture for a long time, the more I looked, the more I saw. Many of the photos must have been taken from helicopters, and I particularly liked views of the sea, around oil platforms.  The accumulation of rubbish from this industry was stunning.

A few days beforehand I had also visited the Saatchi Gallery (click on the name…) on the King’s Road, with my college photography group to see a photography exhibition entitled ‘Out of Focus’.  This was also a good exhibition, but the thing that intrigued me more was part of another exhibition.  It was a room full of oil… car oil in this case.  I had dismissed it as gimmicky before I came across it, but when I walked into the room I was mesmerised by the whole thing.  Firstly the smell was very strong, but then I was drawn into an atmosphere reminiscent of a Rothko exhibition, very calm and contemplative.  The whole room was full of car oil, like a swimming pool.  I stared over the barrier, into the viscous liquid below.  Nothing moved, very unlike water, no rippling, no movement of reflections.  I couldn’t tell if it was 5″ or 5′ deep. There was a metal bridge that you could walk down into the oil bath, which descended deeper into the pool.  At the time I was there it had been fenced off, so maybe there had been some safety concerns.  I think other people felt the same as I did – we took lots of photos with our mobiles!  Here you can see the bridge descending into the oil.

Both of these galleries are free…!


2 thoughts on “Oil…

  1. I went last week and thought that photography exhibition was stunning, I could hardly drag myself away. Wish I could have bought one!
    I must try to see the Saatchi … as you say, it sounds gimmicky. But then I would never have expected to be bowled over by photographs of the oil industry.

  2. It would have been hard work trying to get one of those huge images out the door if you’d bought one! I like the Saatchi Gallery, not necessarily stuff I would choose to see, but sometimes it’s good to be forced to view something you think you might not like. Apart from the oil room, there are lots of other interesting things, and the space/building is wonderful. Thanks for the comment, will take a look at your blog too. Mx

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