Lisbeth Bonde, Commemorative words, Nov 2021

A fearless loner

With the death of Jørgen Haugen Sørensen, the polyphonic choir of Danish art life has been greatly reduced.

A ruthless social scoundrel. An outsider who saw things in an unusually bright light. Too naughty and too black-eyed for delicate souls, but an ingenious sculptor for anyone with a sense of the three-dimensional art. Jørgen Haugen Sørensen, who died on Thursday at the age of 87, came to the art of sculpting by a small detour: (today the Academy of Fine Arts' Design School). The three-dimensional art soon became his preferred form of expression, and he became his own academy.

As his two-year-old brother, the painter Arne Haugen Sørensen, he began drawing and modeling as a child. Their single mother, who had to go to work every day to provide food for the small family, feared that the Child Welfare Service would intervene if it became known that her two minor sons were alone at home all day. They were therefore given strict admonitions to be quiet and entertain themselves by drawing and painting behind rolled-down curtains. It was on Amager during the war, and the boys witnessed several gruesome clashes between the German occupying forces and the Danes. Their mother and father stood on opposite sides of the war, and the father moved to Germany after the parents' divorce.

Throughout his life, Jørgen Haugen Sørensen was critical of any kind of authority from the military over the church to the "establishment" of art, which he often dealt with. He had chosen to become an artist because he wanted to free himself from all authorities, but during his long life he witnessed that art slowly transformed into a "totalitarian state". Several former chairmen of the New Carlsberg Foundation made his verbal crab feel. For a number of years, his order book with large works for the public space was therefore empty, which forced him back to the cheap clock material of sculpture: clay, which - like the drawing and sketch - contains greater immediacy and plasticity than center-heavy and expensive materials such as marble and granite . He had extremely clever hands and was an amazing model. Most people who have followed his career remember in this connection his great comeback in clay in 2007 at the Statens Museum for Kunst "While we wait" with 201 ceramic sculptures, including his bestial and aggressive killer dogs, staged as installation on the floor as an allegory over the wickedness of man. They revolved around themes such as freedom of speech, supremacy, deprivation of liberty, life and death. With the dogs, he returned to his 1950s preoccupation with just dogs and slaughtered animals.

Jørgen Haugen Sørensen made his debut at Charlottenborg as a 19-year-old in 1953. The following year he participated in the Artists' Autumn Exhibition, and since then it has gone hand in hand. It also turned into many journeys. He became a very clear contributor to Danish art and to the artistic debate, although he lived most of his life in voluntary exile. The collaboration with art dealer Børge Birch, who also brought him to Læsø in the 1970s, made it possible for him to move permanently to the South. For the last many years he lived in Portugal and just outside Pietrasanta in Tuscany, close to an excellent bronze foundry and a large marble quarry. At his side he had the sculptor Eli Benveniste (born 1961), who as his faithful manager, photographer and wife has helped, lifted and communicated the works of his gradually aging sculptor. The couple has created a beautiful meeting place for both local friends and for the small colony of Danish artists who live in the city, in their house from the 17th century, where they also have a studio.

Before he passed away, Jørgen Haugen Sørensen managed to hold a reconciliation meeting with his big brother. Although they were brothers and both members of the artists' association Grønningen, where they exhibited together year after year, an old conflict had created a line of demarcation between them that could be felt throughout Danish art life.

Jørgen Haugen Sørensen received many honors: In 1969 the Eckersberg Medal, in 1970 the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Scholarship, in 1979 he was awarded the Thorvaldsen Medal, and from 1984 he has received the Statens Kunstfonds lifelong award. Among his many works for the public space can be mentioned ”De kantede bær’, de glatte glider” (1982-83, Nørrebrogade), ”Huset der regner” (1992, Sankt Hans Torv), ”Kolossen” (2011, Tårnby) og ”Skyggen” (2019, Frederiksberg). Not to forget the bronze sculpture "The Crowd", which was erected in his hometown, Pietrasantas, historic center in 2017 in connection with the solo exhibition "Jørgen Haugen Sørensen and Pietrasanta, from the 1970s to today."

The poet Peter Poulsen said about his art at the opening: “We have long known that Jørgen Haugen Sørensen is a sculptor of format. In clay as in drawing, he is a ruthless philosopher, no aspect of stupidity and brutality escapes his sharp attention. Jørgen Haugen Sørensen loves us in his very own way. ”

2021 has brought with it a big manfall in the Danish sculptor class: In May Ingvar Cronhammar passed away, in June Mogens Møller, and now Jørgen Haugen Sørensen is no longer among us either. The Danish art life's polyphonic choir of strong voices has thus been greatly reduced.