David Sorensen - Studio 3.0



Text by Elizabeth Wood

(Excerpt from 'Asian View' catalogue, 1993)

David Sorensen • Asian View • Regard sur l’Asie by Art Perry, Elizabeth Wood • ISBN 2-9802722-9-9

The breadth of contemplative awareness inherent in the works of David Sorensen is singular. His fertile visual language reveals an intricate web of aesthetic, philosophical and poetical concerns, initiated in the articulation of distinctly formal questions, and extending outward to embrace considerations of a universal nature. I would like to trace this process, to explore the works in their formal presence and, in so doing, to perceive the complex observations, insights, and questions that emerge. Prior to that, however, it is important to recognize the diverse and interwoven nature of what the artist refers to as the “phenomena of (his) whereabouts”. This, I think, obtains at both a physical and a symbolic level.

David Sorensen was born in Vancouver, and resides currently in Quebec. The resonance of his visual vocabulary is informed by early studies with such critical figures as painter Jack Shadbolt, architect Arthur Ericson, and sculptor Bill Reid. Sorensen’s sculptural awareness, heightened by extensive travels throughout the Far East, expands the concerns of his recent work beyond the confines of the two dimensional painted surface. In this essay, clear threads will be identified that, interestingly, constructs zeitgeistian thematic links between the work of Sorensen and that of contemporary Canadian artists from other disciplines. Accordingly, prior to further reflection on Sorensen’s work, I would like to briefly acknowledge these affinities.

First, Sorensen’s concern with the separation between component and entirety, and the diaphanous juncture of the two, is paralleled in the work of Quebec contemporary dancer and choreographer Paul-Andre-Fortier. In his recent piece, La Tentacion de la transparence, Fortier “plunges the viewer irrevocably into a universe of profound serenity and tenderness … in order to better recover the naked being, prior to culture, even if that means paying the price of solitude. The relationship between individual and other is central.

Canadian pianist Glenn Gould shares another of Sorensen’s concerns, a commitment to the innovation that is part of becoming. Not unlike Sorensen, Gould asserts that ‘the essential in art is not the work itself, but the process it causes the audience to undergo.” For Gould, the result of this process is a state that he refers to as ecstasy - “a thread that binds together music, performance, performer, and listener, in a web of shared awareness of innerness.” The same innerness, this irrefutable “oneness” permeates the work of Sorensen.

Finally, the poetry of Ralph Gustafson, like Sorensen’s visual images, considers the relationship between the individual and the environing world. Gustafson’s ‘”Segment of Ten Minutes” from the collected works The Moment is All for example, is a fiercely passionate expression of the poet’s unity within with the natural, physical world, and with life itself. Sorensen’s travel sketches are of a similar intensity. These are documented initially as poetic fragments, then later more fully developed.


Text by Art Perry

(Excerpt from 'Asian View' catalogue, 1993)



The paintings of David Sorensen appear deceptively simple: a few careful geometric shapes, a limited range of colours, and they are as flat as a desert. Yet, it was the Russian modernist, Kasimir Malevitch, who stated decades ago that the desert strips away all that is unnecessary. The seemingly blank world of silences and empty spaces has always been a place for intense and uncluttered meditation.

So it is with the paintings of David Sorensen.

Sorensen is continuing the positive side of modernism 's concern with non-figurative art. The negative side produces a mechanical type of abstraction that purposely hides the artist’s emotions under layers of non-gestural paint and box-like shapes. These hard-edged objects sit on gallery floors and hang on its walls like industrial air vents. The positive side, Sorensen’s side, is more Eastern. It searches the empty desert of modernism for certain truths and for essences of human feeling.

This search began when artist such as Paul Cezanne, Malevitch, Piet Mondrian, and later Mark Rothko, saw the inner powers revealed through reductivist art.

David Sorensen is an intensely literate artist. His art comes from a well-understood and well-exercised involvement with not only other non-objective painters from the past, but also with other cultures and their means of rendering abstract ideas through their art. Sorensen’s notebooks are filled with ink sketches of Indian Islamic scripts and calligraphy on Japanese Kyoto stones. A western artist working within our abstract tradition, Sorensen also incorporates the spiritual aesthetic of the East.

“The western mind leans towards an eventual triumph of science and logic”, says Sorensen. “A hope that sees us finally located in a safe, predictable world where
truth will unveil its inner workings in a reward for our vigilance. Mystery will be digested and express the shape and will of the explorer”.

“The Eastern mind looks inward and locates nature with truth and harmony, respecting and emulating mystery and paying homage to it. Displacement from this state explains anxiety, stress and ongoing confusion and the compounding of error and karma on negative levels. When the inner region is upset, reflection and another kind of work is required”.

In the quest for ‘another kind of work’, Sorensen has chosen to cast off the illusionism that is implicit in all representational art. He is paring away towards a purer image.

This idea that “less means more” has shaped much of twentieth century art: in literature the tradition goes from Gertrude Stein to Robbe-Grillet to Raymond Carver; in music from Stravinsky to Phillip Glass and Steve Reich; in Architecture from Le Corbusier and Gropius to Mies van der Rohe and Richard Meier. At its worst, reductivist art strips away all the flesh and life and leaves us with a faceless skeleton. At its best, it unearths long-hidden spiritual and structural truths.

It is a common misconception that all non-objective art says nothing and its emptiness indicates dead space.
David Sorensen is trying to open that gap by painting quiet areas for the beleaguered soul.

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