How does one see when their brain has changed? I paint so others can see what I see. As a gay man, my life falls outside the parameters of the straight and conventional. As a recent stroke survivor, my life as an outsider is even more pronounced.
Through intense therapy, I’ve regained the use of the right side of my body, but my painting style and abilities are greatly changed. After a long and isolating recovery, learning a new way to see has led me to appreciate the poetic murmurings of the ordinary. My practice is informed by a necessity to create a new pattern language for myself as I navigate post-stroke experiences of aphasia and multiple sensory processing disorders. I paint ordinary moments and places as a reminder of the profound beauty that exists in the banal, as Bruegel’s and Vermeer’s paintings documented their societies in historical and emotional ways. Not just the physical planes of Seattle and the U.S. are changing, but society is too. My landscapes capture both the ordinary and extra-ordinary. Painting is not so much a way to make sense of the world around me as it is a way to share the exquisiteness of the overlooked. Our exalted quotidian.
Due to light sensitivity, I mostly paint the city at night. Urban landscapes reveal our subconscious yearnings. I show the streets as if traversed by a flaneur or a detective—those figures who catalog the isolation of the human condition, the shifting faces of identity, the lost or rewarded memory, and desire.
I soak my preliminary sketches with water and let the paint drip and splatter, guiding the painting’s eventualities in a recreation of my sensory discordance. Values are intentionally muddled and obscured, an echo of how our brains purposely select some criteria in favor of others in order to define, perceive, and interpret. Structures melt away; a person’s arm is translucent. Objects are half-drawn or barely suggested. A wet warp of perspective inviting you to my disorientation.
I want the viewer to have the impression of walking into a moment; an image to give forth to a witness full of feeling. I paint my ghostly figures as representational resonances of the thoughts and memories we all share, despite the different ways we see our respective worlds. It is the profound isolation of subjective reality that unites us all.
Ian Shearer is an artist based in Seattle, Washington. He is a graduate of The Academy of Art University of San Francisco. In 2018, Ian survived a massive stroke. Through intense therapy he was able to regain use of the right side of his body, however, his painting style and abilities were greatly changed. These changes have led him to “start over” as an artist.
Currently, Ian’s work focuses on urban landscapes. Using the city as a lens to explore themes of isolation, subjective reality, sensory experience, and memory; often finding beauty in the everyday moments of urban life. These moments intrigue him, especially as ordinary moments become extraordinary in the wake of disability.
Through his work, Ian is currently exploring the changes in his visual language and working on developing a dialogue of post-stroke experience. Adding another voice to a condition that affects hundreds of thousands and documenting the recovery process through mark-making.
More of Ian’s work can be found at ianshearerstudio.com.