In 2010 Edward Burtynsky photographed farm areas in Spain including Monegros, a hilly, semi-desert area with extreme climatic conditions. He was drawn to this landscape’s complex and organic expansion; these successive divisions of land were created by family farming. The visual formations and abstractions within the land fascinated Burtynsky, resulting in aerial photographs that are his most abstract and painterly to date.

Writhing lines, bold patches of colour, and texture suggest microscopic organisms: the convergence of a close-up detail within a cosmic landscape. Their rhythmic patterns and semi-figurative shapes resemble primitive cave paintings, as well as the expressive paintings of Jean Dubuffet, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Jean-Michel Basquiat. These photographs capture a landscape that embodies painter Paul Klee’s famous saying that drawing is “taking a line for a walk.”

Burtynsky is internationally renowned for his large-scale photographs of industrial landscapes. After a decade-long exploration of oil, he is now delving into water, another crucial resource. Farming causes great impact on the earth, as 70% of global water consumption is used to produce food. These images are part of a larger series, Burtynsky–Water, which will be published by Steidl in 2012.

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