David Sorensen - Studio 3.0



Text by Sandra Grant Marchand

(Excerpt from 'First Decade Horizons' catalogue 2009)

David Sorensen • First Decade Horizons • Horizons de la premiere decennie • Horizontes de la primera decada by Sandra Grant Marchand • ISBN 978-0-9680851-2-7

The pictorial world of the “Horizons” as it is represented in this exhibition plainly derives its raison d’etre from the experience of the “primal reality” of natural forms, and - while transforming them and making them more complex - there is no doubt that this pictorial world, abstract though it may be, contains the spatial structure that suggests the idea of the horizon line. And therein resides the first register of associations and effects that spawn Sorensen’s various series of paintings dealing with the same theme. The allusive forms we read in them, the imprint of the spaces of his childhood he speaks of (the infinite horizons delineated by Rocky Mountains and, above all, the Pacific Ocean, ever present to him in his hometown Vancouver): certainly, this geography virtually pervades all the works that make up the “Horizons”. And furthermore, why should we resist such an interpretation of the structural elements that in fact correspond to what is familiar to us - in this case, the abstract landscape?

And yet, Sorensen’s “it never existed until the moment the paint was laid on the canvas” blatantly sets forth the before and after of the coming into being of the forms, enabling, we might say, their independence from external references. The creative process itself, which Sorensen describes as essentially visual (one formal element leading to the next, and so on), more specifically defines his materialist approach to the act of painting, focused on the primacy of the orchestration of visual idioms. Moreover, with Sorensen such a conception gives free rein to the quest for a balance within structure / colour, to the resolution of the tensions between colour, line and plane, and so on. And we would be inclined to assume that in this way the painting defines itself through the process of its making, that it constructs itself, to borrow Sorensen’s term, in accordance with its own constituent means.

But what does it mean to Sorensen, this persistent return to a theme that deals mainly with the horizon, even taken in its conceptual guise? How does his practice of an essentially abstract painting reconcile itself with the recurrence of the theme of horizon, a favourite subject of so-called figurative painting? If the notion of atmospheric space within a colour field is so predominant with Sorensen - in fact, it arises in previous series as well - perhaps we should see that for him it holds a particular resonance that informs his practice and crystallizes his desire to create, within each painting, “an enveloping visual environment” that engages the viewer’s gaze. What can one say of this space Sorensen aspires to in the fabrication of the painted surfaces, this space with which, apropos of this last series of paintings exhibited, he associates the “emulation of nature’s surfaces”?

Attributing to these same abstract paintings the qualities of an atmospheric “quasi aerial” space that approaches natural space while transcending it, Sorensen diverts the conventional distinction between figuration and abstraction. The memory of places is transformed into the invention of nonfigurative forms; the memory of time merges with the creative process in the duration of the act of painting; the memory of enveloping space, expanse of impalpable horizon, is lost in the “thickness” of the surfaces, the “space between recto and verso” that Sorensen works abstractly, probes with superimposed brushstrokes and coloured pigments, divides into multiform strata and maps with delicate traces.

Obviously, the boundless realms of painting, even described in its formal language, cannot resolve to reveal the how of affective experience or to unveil the path that leads to the achievement of a state of contemplation – “states of mind” as Sorensen has written, adding, “to me there is still this celebration worth the paint,” which is another way of showing his attachment to the material that transforms, that fashions intangible spaces whose silence none would wish to silence.

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