At Jonathan Shearer's workshop
If such wording existed, Jonathan Shearer would be called a « walking painter », or a « painting researcher »: he is indeed always on a wandering quest for the « right moment ». Portrait of a surprising artist, in total harmony with his subject.
Whenever he is mentioning the Scottish Highlands, he always talks about “astonishing landscapes”. When you listen to him, you ask yourself if anyone else knows them better than him. Since he graduated from the Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, the artist has never ceased to roam these gigantic wild stretches. “I need to know a place before I can paint it, this is why I spend so much time walking, looking and contemplating. I come back at different times of the year, and experience different weather conditions. The weather has a huge impact on my painting. I walk and look around, until I feel it’s the right moment to paint.”
He then creates a dozen sketches –in Indian ink or directly using oil paints- until he gets to “the right one, the one that captures something”. Once back at his workshop, he uses this material to work on bigger formats.
“I work very fast, trying to capture something more than a simple view, or a frozen image: I try to share an experience. Speed is paramount when painting outside: if you spend too much time on a sketch or painting, you lose the sense of what is actually taking place.” The light changes, the ebb and flow of the tide, the dance of the clouds…The painter wants to capture all of this unsettled landscape, perpetually at the mercy of the weather, like forces at work on a stage.
His paintings express a compulsive desire to capture an emotion, the beauty of a moment before it fades away. When looking at them, we cannot help but think that the artist is driven by the same volatility as the nature he portrays, as if he were acting in harmony with his subject. This strange state of “communion” appears in his words as well, when he says that in order to paint, “you have to be ready to destroy as well as create, like nature itself”, or: “you have to let nature work with your material: sometimes the paint drips or runs, it is impossible to control everything”. When he paints, Jonathan Shearer is spaced out, detached from it all, but totally immersed in his subject and in the moment: “I am not religious but I think nature is my form of spirituality,” he says.
Jonathan Shearer has received many distinctions for his work, including two awards from the Royal Scottish Academy and a residency at the Valparaiso Foundation in Spain. His paintings belong to many private and public collections, notably the ones of British Midland Airways, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Cornhill Hospital and the Highland Council.