The tension between utilitarian purpose and artistic inspiration is the unexpectedly compelling strength of David Burdeny’s mesmerizing series of aerial abstractions called Salt. His large-format and luminously intriguing photographs of salterns occupy the hazy border zone between the prosaic and the poetic. In our hyper-connected age of GPS, Google maps and instant information, the instinctual reaction to these scenes might first be to determine the where and the why of them -their ground-level location or biological/environmental fact. To see first the service roads and draining ditches or to puzzle out how the chemical balance in the salt ponds creates these particular blooms of colour. Such readings serve to root vision in the commonplace and the established order -the here and now -and downgrade the sublimity in the aerial experience. But Burdeny’s Salt photographs aim to be more evocative and exalted than pedestrian. They seek to elevate our experience of the world in more ways than one.
With Burdeny’s Salt series, once you let go of the map, you take hold of the opportunity in the work. Then the immensity of the view, the expressive power of light and colour, and complex feelings of solitude and release take over, take flight. Burdeny manages to render into visual form the ineffable experience of drifting, of floating above it all, of being lost out beyond the humanly order of things (a clever conceit given how humans have definitely ordered these working salt fields). In some of the images -such as Saltern Study 15 -there is the sense of the transfigurative potential of expansion, a longing for the infinite. Whereas Red Water, Hut Lagoon reveals the awesome beauty of the abyss as a roiled cauldron of red. In their abstracted glory, Burdeny’s images play to the psyche and have powerful emotional force.