Ben Shearer started painting in watercolour towards the end of the 1970s and rapidly established himself as a leading contemporary watercolourist. He is particularly well known for his interpretations of the Australian landscape, in all its harsh beauty. It may be the result of his early textile studies or his careful observation of the landscape but some of Shearer’s work can appear as tapestry with a textured surface, such as Skeletal Surface Lake Eyre SA, or a broad open land ‘embroidered’ with bush such as Sand Dunes Bedouries Qld.
As a source of inspiration for his paintings, Shearer makes regular trips to the Australian outback, including joining the world’s longest mail run – a two-day, 2,600km plane hop from cattle ranch to cattle ranch, from Port Augusta on South Australia’s coast to Boulia in Western Queensland. In November 2003, Shearer took to the skies in a light aircraft to re-trace the route taken by ill-fated explorers Burke and Wills who, in the 1860s, were the first Europeans to cross the Australian continent from north to south. Unlike Lewis and Clarke’s successful expedition across the United States, Burke and Wills died of starvation at Cooper’s Creek, Queensland.
Shearer has also depicted some of Australia’s major geological features and sites sacred to Indigenous Australians, particularly Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in Central Australia. Rather than painting them close up, as often seen in promotional posters, these paintings show a broad flat landscape divided only by the sharp line of a track which leads to the rock formation in the distance.
His works are a celebration of the Australian landscape – the huge open expanse of a mysterious and ancient land. Dusty tracks and seasonal waterways wind their way through the landscape like ancient serpents, as the detailed foreground fades into subtle studies of colour and abstraction. These paintings are also very much about light and colour – long shadows or the shade from passing clouds are the focus for some of the works while in others the artist’s palette has been turned up to accentuate the redness of the earth or the unforgettable vivid skies.
1941 Born, Adelaide, South Australia 1960 Awarded Wool Research Fund Scholarship Studied textiles, Gordon Institute of Technology, Geelong 1964 Post Graduate studies in fabric design and weaving, Scottish Woollen Technical College Galashiels, Scotland, Worked as Textile Designer, felt and textiles, Melbourne and Sydney 1979 Art Teacher, St, Catherine's 1980 Art Teacher, Scotch College, Melbourne 1995 Full time artist
2002 Axia Modern Art, Melbourne 2003 Axia Modern Art, Melbourne, 2003 Australian Art Resources, Sydney 2004 Axia Modern Art, Melbourne 2004 Australian Embassy, Washington 2005 Axia Modern Art, Melbourne 2005 Booker-Lowe Gallery, Houston 2006 Axia Modern Art, Melbourne
For more on Ben Shearer see www.benshearer.com.au