David Sorensen - Studio 3.0



Vie des Arts – Summer 2005

by Guillaume Sirois

(translated from French to English)

Curator Charles Bourget has reconstituted the artistic path of David Sorensen since his first sketches while on a European trip in 1959 until the more recent works executed in 2005.

Employing a chronological hanging - stopped voluntarily at a unique spot - the exhibition reunites in one hall, the results of more than 45 years of research. The show limits itself to the solely abstract propositions and does not include works where images mix abstraction and figuration, neither those into which text is integrated.

The present retrospective looks on Sorensen’s career and allows us to propose a reading of his work in relation to his first transition from the School of Architecture. After realising numerous bronze sculptures with organic forms largely influenced by Henry Moore - notably the series ‘Growth’- executed from the archetypal form of the egg and shown at the Pavilion de la Jeunesse at Expo 67- David Sorensen presents in 1970 a show at the Musee d’art Contemporain with Louis Bako.

For this show, he created a large piece called ‘Tunnel’, set up outside the museum. It was in fact a large, wood spiral of octagonal shape, horizontally positioned, through which the visitor was invited to enter and walk in order to live the experience of the work. About this, the artist states in the Montreal Star: ‘Sculpture should not be separated from experience.’ We are not far here from architectural concerns where the work is not only an object for exterior contemplation, but as well a structure into which we can enter, and globally experience the space.

Following the same path, Sorensen presents in 1972 at Vehicule gallery, rubber sculptures appearing as minimal works: simple and refined forms as well as material resulting from production milling. On the floor and suspended above by fine wires, two framed, horizontal wood squares, then four vertical rubber beams completing an open cube. As the upright edge members offer certain flexibility, the viewer can warp the pieces accordingly, thus creating other forms than those created by the artist.

In the same fashion, in 1974, the artist proposes his maquettes for sidewalk-sculptures made of elements that can be moved according to the viewer’s wishes. In these two examples, it is not only the matter of making possible the spatial experience to the viewer, but to hold him in account in the process of the work. More so, it has to allow him to become a person taking part, even creative on his own in giving the possibility to modify the original configuration proposed by the artist.

Sculptural space / Pictorial space / Museal space.

Other themes of predilection of the artist bring us to architectural concerns, and the exploration of pictorial and sculptural space as such.

The unfurling of a line in space is certainly a subject that has for a long time held his attention. This research was already sparked in the Growth Series, which ended in a work inspired by a vegetal stem in full deployment. Close to twenty years later, the question still remains at the core of his preoccupations, as shown in the minimal work created for the Sherbrooke University Cultural Center. The L’arc Déplacé’ is a sculpture that presents itself as a simple curved line made of laminated wood occupying the center of the main hall space.

At one of its extremities, it seems to support an enormous aluminium beam at the ceiling level. Today the sculpture has been removed from its original location to make room for computers. The piece had been for many years the place for student gatherings, the artist conceiving it as a real attraction area, where people would step over it, touch it; it was even possible to sit against it in order to feel the relation with space.

The grid, a methodical instrument:

The problem of the unique line in space has also reached the artist’s pictorial production. His exploration goes back to the latter half of the seventies. Sorensen works first around the introduction of the horizontal line in the abstract painting. Starting with reference mainly due to landscape, the horizontal line becomes rapidly a structuring motif in the artist’s work. He will then multiply such lines.

At the beginning of the eighties, it is the vertical line, which holds his attention, notably in the group titled ‘Centre Line Series’. The material line drawn at the centre of the canvas structures the composition; Sorensen mainly tries to leave its presence tenuous due to large encircling coloured fields. Of this questioning about line in pictorial space will be born a larger exploration into which the artist fixes relations between geometric forms structuring the work and the coloured fields into which they are placed. In the same way, the painter plays with the relation between geometric forms and the dimension of the canvas, as in ‘Double Bar Series’ (1980), or in more recent works such as ‘Havana Series’ (1999).

Following his reflection on pictorial space structuring, Sorensen creates a field in 2003 ‘Suite de l’Estrie’ into which a grid is positioned at the centre of the work. So he establishes an explicit reference to this ‘methodical instrument’ largely used by modern painters. Now this grid doesn’t have for him any manifest structural function in the pictorial field; it defines itself as a tribute to the formal research of abstract painting. Moreover, this series, apart from being a reference to modernist exploration, has also been conceived of as an installation in situ for the space into which it was presented at the Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts. It is therefore a work belonging not only to pictorial space but also to the exhibiting space.

A main theme in David Sorensen’s production, space stays at the core of his artistic life. It is without doubt that Charles Bourget made reference to this when he emphasized it in the catalogue introduction. The visual space coherence of the entire show first lead the artist in the selecting process for this retrospective in the Musee du Bas-St-Laurent. This marks his great sensitivity to space and shows that architecture is one of the foundations in the work of David Sorensen.

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