David Sorensen. Between Zenith and Nadir

Curatorial : Julie Alary Lavallée

From January 15 2023 to April 2 2023

About —

A Peek at the MAJ Collection

David Sorensen’s paintings draw their essence mainly from the natural phenomena that are associated with light, the horizon, colours, and the configuration of the landscape, but also from other inspiring sources like architecture and the cultures of the pre-Columbian era. Imbued with the nature of British Columbia, where he was born, and of Mexico, which he later regularly frequented, Sorensen’s art is grounded in his deep knowledge of art and his relationships to different locales. On occasion, he would begin paintings in Mexico only to drive them across the continent to finish them in Québec, after the province had become his permanent anchor point in 1966. Ever mobile, Sorensen personifies the zenith-nadir, the vertical axis that links the point above our head to its opposite beneath our feet. Perpendicular to this verticality are the terrestrial and celestial horizons that evolve with the changing landscape and the advancement of day into night.

Sorensen’s large-scale paintings—visual environments in themselves—immerse us in imagery that invites contemplation; their essential elements are transmitted as an intimate impression and recollection of a lived and felt environment. In 1959, he discovered colour field painting, an abstract style that grew out of New York City during the 1940s and is characterized by large fields of colour. In the early 1970s, Sorensen integrated this influence into his pictorial practice, focusing it on the luminosity and warmth of the Mesoamerican environment. He described how he enjoyed spending time on the roof of his house in Mexico, with ample cushions and a good book at hand, slowly awakening to observe the surrounding flora and ambient light.

The three works by Sorensen presented here, and an additional one on the second floor in the permanent collection exhibition, belong to his first two decades of production as a painter, a change of course after having studied to become an architect or a sculptor. Two of these paintings were presented in Montréal in 1974 as part of his first solo painting show at Espace 5, an event that had an immediate impact on his artistic trajectory. That same year, he bought land in the Eastern Townships and began converting an old barn—the property’s sole building—into a luminous studio. His modus operandi and vivendi became stabilized once he began teaching in 1981, which he continued to do until 2000.


Biography —

Known as an abstract painter, David Sorensen (Vancouver 1937–Montréal 2011) initially studied architecture and sculpture. He presented his first solo exhibition in 1964 in Mexico City, where he spent much of his time. After moving to Montréal in 1966, Sorensen developed a career as a painter and taught visual art at Bishop’s University (1981–2000). His work has been shown in many exhibitions across the country and internationally, namely in the United States, Switzerland, France, Italy, Japan, and China. In 2005, the Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent presented his 45-year career retrospective. His works are held in numerous public and private collections.


Image in the banner:

© Succession David Sorensen. David Sorensen, Stripes, 1974, oil on canvas, 91.2 x 79 x 3 cm, (Detail). Photo: Musée d’art de Joliette