Rory Shearer was born in Northern Ireland, growing up in a city full of tension and expectation.  His intention was to study graphic design at the Belfast art college but by 1972 ceramics had taken over his interest and he graduated in 1976 with a degree in ceramics followed by a post-graduate teaching diploma.

 

Living in the country has given his work a sense of place, of industry; a place which is visually stunning and physically extreme, difficult.  Rory’s pottery does not romanticise the countryside but suggests its beauty, order, strength while reminding us that it is hard work, dangerous and unexpected.

 

In his early years both as a student and as a studio potter he was greatly influenced by what has come to be known as ‘The Leach Tradition’, a standard for modern ceramics set out in the 1940’s drawn deeply on the ceramics traditions of the East, in particular Japan and Korea.  For Shearer this manifested itself in ceramics that were well made, trained and primarily with an Asian influence.  His work rejected industrialisation, and frames of reference came from Leach/Hamada.  He was making functional pottery, “it had to work, to be fit for purpose”. 

His current work inspired by his local landscape is a reflection of his individual psyche but cleverly taps into a universal audience, it speaks to all our inner sources.  There is drama in the spontaneity and improvisation without a reduction in the importance of process.  There is an emphasis on energetic and dynamic gesture, in contrast to a reflective, cerebral focus.  Imagery is primarily abstract but based on visual realities.  Rory in his own words describes the work as; 

 

“ Two hills dominate the view from my studio.  Immediately on my horizon is ‘The Big Collin’ with its giant wind turbines; the other is Slemish.  Both have, in different ways, a variety of moods and visual impact, depending on the time of day, season of the year and local weather conditions.  This ever changing display......informs my sense of colour and pattern”.

 

There is a maturity to this new work, which is aimed at the city dweller, whose visual sophistication will respond to the urban and rural elements.

Shearer is a thrower through and through, you can feel the energy in his pieces, the surface  treated with slips and oxides evoking the rural Irish landscape.

He sees this time as the final phase of his work, his creativity, and the most exciting.  His family have grown up, and he feels that the years ahead will be ones of fruitful production.  His national and international profile has never been higher he has never been busier or more enthusiastic.

Elaine Hogg

Belfast based writer, lecturer and curator