Isolation and marginalization have always influenced my work as a gay artist. These themes are magnified since my stroke. Through paint application and typographic media, I explore themes of neurodiversity and disability to build a dream world open to interpretation—things aren’t what they seem, but rather what we seem to think they are.
My urban landscapes use metaphor and nocturnes to explore neurodiversity, the workings of the brain, feelings of isolation, and the vagaries of subjective and objective reality to create a sort of magical realism.
I paint in part to chronicle the time and place that I live in, but interwoven are bits of the dream world engaging the subconscious and exploring how the brain interprets reality. By creating an emotional narrative that supersedes visual accuracy, I paint how things feel.
How do we make sense of the world? How do we find meaning?
Crucial to my work is the process of understanding how the brain interprets stimuli. Street signage and light poles transcend the purely representational because as we traverse the city streets we ignore such details too. Half-drawn sketches and translucent objects speak to memories and the future expectations of our internal narrative. Primed canvas between paint streaks expose and express a vision simultaneously coalescing and dispersing.
Sketching in paint I soak my canvases with water creating rivers of pigment. I paint between these dripped lines, manipulating perspective and creating a jumble of flat and rendered imagery. Low and high contrasting values help tell the story of confusion and disorientation. Figures slowly emerge from shadow, while bright paint spatters recreate the jarring euphoria of synesthesia experienced with sensory processing disorders.
The chaotic drippings are symbolic of the “static” of aphasia and the lack of muscle control of dysarthria and apraxia; while simultaneously creating sensations of vertigo, common to traumatic brain injury. Patterns within the drips are highlighted or darkened to resemble MRIs and angiograms.
Bits of medical records are decoupaged into my paintings, often backward or upside down, referencing neurological language disorders and a metaphor for medical gaslighting.
Hidden in signage or shadows, almost indiscernible, reflecting the experience of millions of people living with invisible disabilities.
I strive for the familiar and uncanny. A world of winding roads, shadows in windows, and the echoes of forgotten promises. I leave the narrative open—for as your brain imparts meaning, so does the work exist.
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.
Through urban landscapes, Ian explores themes of isolation, subjective reality, sensory processing, and memory. Developing a dialogue of post-stroke and neurodivergent experience.