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He spots the power plant’s offshore cooling water intakes and outflows that are creating abstract, expressionist patterns in the mudflats and sea. “That tells me they are dumping hot water into the bay which is going to affect the marine life. What about its waste coal ash? Where does all that go?” he asks.

Back on the ground, Fair says his environmental images must be both meaningful and beautiful to work. “Art that is beautiful but not meaningful is decoration. Art that is meaningful without beauty is pedantic. I want to make art that tells a story to regular people; art which hopefully gives them an insight into our world.

“What we buy doesn’t come with information about the hidden costs: the air that is fouled, the water contaminated, the habitat destroyed, or the workers exploited. But these are real costs that must inevitably be paid, a burden that ultimately falls on all of us.”

J Henry Fair talks to John Vidal (Guardian)

Industrial Scars


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