The Sherbrooke Record - June 23, 2003
Local Artist is driven by the Light
by Liam Roberts
‘Townships’ David Sorensen makes his next, bright move.
Light might just be one of those little things that we often take for granted. From the sun in the day, from a bulb in the evening, It’s something that surrounds us so completely that it tends to become invisible. Ayer’s Cliff artist David Sorensen is fortunate enough not to see things that way.
It would be fair to say that Sorensen relies on light in every dimension of his life. It’s true in the themes and inspirations that he draws upon in his paintings, in the places he’s chosen to live, and even in the way he heats his solar-powered home. Light is constantly reminding him of powerful emotions and inspiring him towards new decisions and directions.
Sorensen has spent the better part of the last six months preparing for his current exhibition of new works at the Musee des beaux- arts de Sherbrooke. It’s an experience he says has opened up new doors in the way he builds atmospheres of light and colour into his work.
“I was motivated to start working on large formats,” he said at the exhibit’s opening last week. “It’s a sense of surface, texture and colour within an open space. With the size, you feel you could almost walk right into it.”
The ambience of the open space is readily apparent when one walks into his exhibit in the museum’s main gallery, with large square canvasses, up to three meters on each side, mounted all around. Bright, natural colours dominate the images in broad stretches.
“I had to hold back a bit from using too much yellow,” he admitted with a laugh. “I wanted to explore some of the dark blues and browns for this showing, but I do like yellow a lot.”
Abstract artists don’t always find so many of their creative resources sourced in the natural world, but Sorensen easily bridges that gap. He said that he finds the way sunlight plays with natural landscapes comes back to define where he goes with his work, despite the squares, rectangles, and grid-like patterns that grace much of it.
“Horizontal lines really have the effect, for me, of creating a depth of field and giving a sense of motion,” he said, putting the word “horizon” back into “horizontal”
He also noted that the gridded lines he uses don’t come across as “unnatural” simply because he is doing his best to reflect the square nature of the canvas
They’re like reverberations from the outside of the canvas,” he explained. “ If I start doing circles, it would just complicate the image. I try to only put in what’s essential.”
Open spaces and living with the essential are more than methods or processes employed in his art - the themes have dominated his lifestyle. Originally from Vancouver, Sorensen traveled to Mexico in 1964 as part of a scholarship he received from the Vancouver School of Art. While there, the rich and simple beauty of the Mesoamerican landscape took him in and kept him mesmerized.
“The colours, the light, the luminosity of the country is so rich. It’s such a perfect place for painters. It’s like looking through a champagne bottle”, he smiled.
While there he began a journey into studying Mexican history and art forms, in an effort to put the beauty of the land in a cultural context he could better understand. His first solo exhibition was there, at Mexico City’s Turok Wasserman Gallery in 1964.
From Mexico Sorensen was drawn to Montreal’s artistic and cultural community, and set up shop in one of the city’s open-concept loft apartments. In the 1970’s, the potential rise of nuclear energy and increased awareness of environmental threats began to take root - Greenpeace was a movement that the young artist was easily drawn to.
“We were trying to raise awareness about alternate energy and about the dangers of nuclear technology .I hoped that, at that time, I was able to make a little difference through our campaigns with booklets and stickers, and decals.
“It was always at the side of my art, though. It was like, if I’m sitting around painting, and I hear someone in the hall being beaten up, and I continue to sit and paint, it’s not really kosher.”
“ In that time, it took a lot of effort to get word out about that kind of thing, though today, it’s rather common parlance. People are much more aware about green policy these days.”
As an environmentally minded citizen of urban Montreal, it was with a breath of fresh air that Sorensen again fell in love with light and vibrant colours upon a visit to the townships in the Fall of 1975.
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