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Gertrud Sorensen: Retrospective

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Thirty years of communion with the water, sky, rocks and bush of South Algonquin has provided Gertrud Sorensen with ample opportunity to demonstrate what it is that satisfies, attracts and holds her here in her adopted home on Galeiry Lake near Algonquin Park and the Madawaska River. It is the space, the quiet and the vistas always seen from the same distance, always bathed in the same light, always painted with the same practical, direct brush strokes. As an adventure hiker, climber and paddler, she explores the surface of what she sees and tries to convince us that that is where her heart lies, but this retrospective collection reveals that there have been dalliances along the way.

What fascinates in this retrospective is that, here and there, throughout her thirty year history of painting and exhibiting, Gertrud reveals a more worldly, urbane experience and approach to this business of painting. In between those periods of ‘bread and butter’ landscapes, Gertrud undoes the top button of her painting smock and displays the travelled and elegant side of her painterly repertoire. In mid career, she put away brushes for a palette knife to produce more texture, rhythm and lightness in her work for a period of time. Again in later years she found herself abandoning pure hues and primary colours for a softer Cezanne-like rust and muted palette of seasonal transitions. More heart and less head. And then, most recently, experimentation with short, dappled strokes and pairing of colours, dancing with pointillism in a self-conscious way, no commitment but trying on something from afar, not yet comfortable, something beyond what she sees and knows. Trying less to please others and more to revel in the manipulation of familiar materials.

This is not a painter who experiments with this and that medium and style. This is a painter who doggedly draws out all that is good from her experience in an isolated but rich landscape, who avoids figures and architectural forms to produce comfort food for the viewers’ senses. But it is the diversions off the familiar path that interest me as they bring out an awareness of and interest in art beyond a replication of the magnificent views she has seen, the favoured painting spots she has known and the comfort and security of styles and approaches she has practised for decades. The work that causes me to stop and smile is that which catches me off guard, the unexpected contradiction of a woman who continually asserts her commitment to landscape then toys with a Klimt-like sparkle, a Seurat-like brush stroke and a view of a swollen stream in spring that could have been born in Aix-en-Provence.

 

Olwen is a longstanding member of the AGB  and an occasional blogger in this spot.

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K0L 1C0

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