Sherbrooke Record – Townships Week – June 25, 1993
Sorensen’s work reflects Asian influence
by Sunil Mahtani
When contemporary painter David Sorensen and his wife visited the orient in 1991 the seed was planted for Asian View, a traveling exhibition of his paintings that begins next month in Tokyo.
“We went for four months to Asia: six weeks in India, six weeks to the Philippines, a couple of weeks in Japan and Hong Kong.” said the Bishop’s University professor, adding that he made contacts in the art community abroad and received good responses to his work.
Doing the final packing of his work at his parents’ place in his native Vancouver, Sorensen said he could hardly believe it’s almost time for him to board a plane to Japan.
The show begins with a one-month stay at the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo on July 15.
“It’s a prestigious place that was built by Japan as a gift to Canada.“ said Sorensen. “T he Royal Palace is right across the street.”
The exhibition then heads to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila at the end of August and remains there until the middle of October. Sorensen also has a smaller show going on at the same time in Manila (Luz Gallery).
Sorensen will also give a slide lecture during an arts festival in Singapore before returning to Lennoxville for his teaching duties.
The exhibition will then continue to Hong Kong in November. Sorensen received financial assistance from Bishop’s University and Waterville Toyoto Gosei, among others.
Sorensen says the paintings in Asian View fall into three categories: banners, gates, and passages…all influences on the artist from his ’91 trip. But, he said that it wasn’t intentional that his creations during the past two years would have a definite Asian influence.
‘I feel the whole trip was transforming, ” he said.” When I got back, I noticed they (Banners, gates and Passages) were coming up in my work and I realized they came from my trip.”
“I’ve always been interested in Japan and it got stronger when I went there”, he said, adding it did take quite a bit of getting used to. “People weren’t as open there.”
“It’s like they’re all wearing masks, you don’t know what their emotions are,” he said. “Behind it was respect, because you see what they’ve built and what they’ve done, you see the high quality. I had a compelling feeling to find out more about it.”
Sorensen said it wasn’t just Japan that influenced him, a lot of it also came from India.
“Going to India was a deep experience because we saw things that were so ancient,” he said. We went to the caves north of Bombay and that was really a powerful experience. There’s a whole horseshoe shape that they carved out of the mountain, they carved a temple . Buddhist monks used to go and meditate there.”
The ancient civilizations he glimpsed on that trip “resonated with me quite powerfully and when I got back to the studio I said I have to do things that have that kind of depth to them.”
‘”The experience of India just seemed to get so deep in my soul that when we got back to the 20th century, I felt displaced”, added Sorensen, a spiritual person who meditates at times.
Sorensen compared the layers of the past and present that are constantly apparent in India to an endless river flowing in all directions.
When asked why he isn’t exhibiting his Asian View in a country that inspired him so, Sorensen said he didn’t find any contemporary galleries to approach.
‘It didn’t strike me that there were places I could approach with a more contemporary thing. Japan has an ancient tradition and a contemporary thing going on at the same time.”
Japan seemed to have an updated kind of economy going on, and you’d find shrines all over the city, so it had that blend,” Sorensen recalled.” India seemed more rambling and ancient. It has the contemporary part there, but other places you could be 4000 years away. I had culture shock to be back in America!
Sorensen says he relates his paintings to these symbolic themes…” the passage of one state of being to another, the states on the way to the shrines.”
In the catalogue to the show, Vancouver Art critic and instructor, Art Perry writes:” The paintings of David Sorensen seem deceptively simple: a few careful geometric shapes, a limited range of colours, and they are as flat as a desert. Yet…the desert strips away all that is unnecessary. The seemingly blank world of silences and empty spaces has always been a place of intense and uncluttered meditation.”
Sorensen says his paintings work because they are uncluttered.
“The images seem to come together in a fullness when they’re simplified” he said.
He compares it to Minimal Art and the goal of reducing an image to something that has an optical resonance of its own.
“A couple of colors can be quite effective.” Sorensen added. :the colors are connected to emotions the viewer has.”
Emotions are at the heart of Sorensen’s paintings.
“I come out of a kind of tradition or language of contemporary art where the messages with me have to do with emotions or inner experience, or meditative experience. That’s the thing I experience when I’m working, when I’m in my studio for along time…When I paint. I normally feel whatever preoccupations I had earlier, they’re gone. I feel whatever my inner world is it’s becoming more obvious to me.”
It’s an inner thing.”
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