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Symbolic Narratives of Meaning: The Art of Andrea Shearing

Joana Alarcão

Embark on a symbolic journey through Andrea Shearing's art, where each sculpture weaves narratives of emotion, nature, and introspection, transcending mere interpretation to delve into the profound process of creation.

8 January 2024

I studied fine art at Edinburgh College of Art where I received a wonderful classical training in observational drawing and the visual language. Since a child I have been inspired by nature environments and although my work is detailed I am not simply a representational artist. My mission explores my inner journey using the emotional symbolism of my subject matter. My creative process is a see saw process between the inner and the outer world in the initial stages. The first stage of creating a painting is devoted to focusing on the real location then an interim period occasionally observing my subject matter in search of information to interpret. As the image evolves the observation of the real world becomes secondary to making the painted image advance on its own journey towards standing independently in front of a viewer. I do not want to create precise images that look machine made. Although I do use rulers and templates I use them to create certain types of marks. I think the see-sawing between the real and the imagination is the dynamo that drives the creative energy. Probably the most important ingredient is to keep the visual senses stimulated, to keep contact with the initial seed of the idea, to allow and intuitive journey to evolve through the perception and translation of the real world.

When we talk about a work of art, we normally over-explain the meaning behind it, as if the artwork or artist opened a portal to a hidden corner of our subconscious mind, where threads of meaning are put together. But what if the meaning of art lies not only in its interpretation but also in the process of creating it?


Artists give 'voice' to their work through critical reflection, allowing for the revelation of values that underpin their artistic identity. The stories shared by the artworks may be more suggestive than precise, but they reflect artistic intelligence and contribute to the continuum of dialogue between the artist and the audience. One artist who embodies this idea is Andrea Shearing, whose thought-provoking and introspective artworks delve into the complex nature of human emotions and experiences.


French Waterfall by Andrea Shearing. Image courtesy of Andrea Shearing

Having an interest in art since an early age, when encountering evening classes at the College of Art at Edinburgh at sixteen, the artist's personal style has evolved from dark, symbolic themes to serene imagery, aspiring "to evoke inner peace, connection with nature, and reflective tranquility," prompting the viewer to engage in their own healing. Also, Andrea's childhood exposure to nature in Switzerland, coupled with her family's medical background, forms the backdrop for her creative pursuits, where a deep search for tranquility and serenity take the central stage in representing her work as a bridge between the natural world and the inner realms of the psyche.


"More recently, I found that producing calm images is very healing, though I also like creating energy through the juxtaposition of contrasting natural elements and their relationship with each other. Waves crashing on rocks, the sun interacting with ice, and chiaroscuro—light mixing with dark”


Giant Waterfall by Andrea Shearing. Image courtesy of Andrea Shearing

One of Andrea's artworks, "My Giant Waterfall," a towering centerpiece from her H2O-themed solo exhibition, is a visual testament to her lifelong passion for nature and water. Organized in six sections portraying different types of water, the installation, motivated by childhood revelations about the scarcity of clean water in India, conveys the significance of water and the deep fascination the artist holds for this essential element. The polyptych, inspired by the Dordogne Mountains' waterfalls, encapsulates the essence, sound, and movement of falling water, transporting the viewers to a state of awe and wonder.


"Somehow it sparked in my young mind a passion for the importance of water. It is the most important compound we have and is essential for the survival of the planet and all its creatures. As a compound, it is one of the most fascinating substances, as it comes in such a wide variety of forms dependent on temperature and environment. Hence my passion for water."


Sunset Ice Cave by Andrea Shearing. Image courtesy of Andrea Shearing

During her career, Andrea's creative process oscillated between the inner and outer worlds, but how does the artist create the balance between them? Focused initially on the chosen location, she observes, interprets, and allows the painted image to evolve independently. Utilizing acrylics on unprimed MDF, Andrea breaks free from rectangular constraints, opting for irregular shapes that challenge compositional norms.

"I think the see-sawing between the real, the imagination, and meaningful energy is the dynamo that drives my creative energy," the artist told me. "Probably the most important ingredient is to keep the visual senses stimulated, to keep contact with the initial seed of the idea, and to allow an intuitive journey to evolve through the perception and translation of the real world."


Tumbling Cascade by Andrea Shearing. Image courtesy of Andrea Shearing

With a clear passion for continuous growth, the artist relentlessly seeks to improve her creative process and pieces. In her upcoming project, "Changing Tide Lines," the artist delves deeper into her water passion, exploring the sea's dynamic convergence with land and sky, where the behaviour of the tide can be observed. The tide holds a deep symbolic meaning, the breath of the ocean, which allows the artist to explore the psychological narrative that this theme may hold. For a year or more, the artist has been researching a way to make these artworks interactive so that the viewers can actively participate in altering the image's structure and mood. Through this, Andrea aims to not only offer varied perspectives but also inspire non-artists to embrace their creativity.


Andrea Shearing's art not only fosters environmental awareness and inner work through her exhibitions and artworks but also invites you to question the essence of life and meaning. In my opinion, her artwork exemplifies how the artist's process of creation and interpretation enhances the artwork's meaning. This exploration of the inner self has led Andrea's art to transcend mere lecturing; it inspires wonder and nurtures a sense of care for nature and oneself. It encourages active engagement in healing the planet on both an individual and collective level.


If you wish to know more about the artist, find her website and Patreon interview for more insights into her portfolio and career.

Cover Image:

Nest-egg Drawing by Andrea Shearing. Image courtesy of Andrea Shearing

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