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Greener grass at Arts Underground

With his background, it's not surprising that Jesse Devost's paintings have a topographic look - he did spend 10 years working as a cartographer.

With his background, it’s not surprising that Jesse Devost’s paintings have a topographic look - he did spend 10 years working as a cartographer.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had my nose in an atlas and been interested in different places in he world and what they look like,” said Devost.

For his second solo show, The Grass is Greener, Devost is exploring the idea of location and changing perspective.

“I’m just playing with the idea of people’s ideas of other places and what they mean to them,” he said. “That notion of there being somewhere more ideal, it doesn’t really exist.”

“I’ve traveled in the past, it’s exciting for a couple of days and then you realize that it’s pretty ordinary there too.”

He’s been working on this show for almost a year.

“The specific idea for this show probably emerged sometime in the winter when I was wishing I was somewhere tropical or somewhere a little more exciting than my desk,” he said.

Devost has much more experience working, as a cartographer, graphic designer and amateur photographer.

He’s has only been painting since 2007.

It was a six-month sojourn he took with his wife that inspired him to paint.

“I took six months and traveled,” he said. “I brought a sketchbook and some water colours and I think that’s when a lot of my ideas started to gel.”

Still it took some time for Devost to develop as a painter.

“I knew I wanted to paint, but I didn’t know what I wanted to paint,” he said. “It took me a couple years to figure that out.”

For Devost, the concepts of his paintings are just as important as their execution.

“I really like the expression of ideas in art as much as the visual part,” he said. “I think I spend as much time thinking about what things should be about than what it will actually look like.”

Most of his previous work, whether it be cartography, graphic design or photography, has been in a digital format.

Moving into the analog world of painting has been really satisfying, he said.

“I think I just liked the look of a handmade piece of art,” said Devost. “It just feels good to make something and I don’t get to do a lot of that in my life.

“I like all of the other mediums, but I think there’s just something really tactile about seeing the thickness of paint on canvas.

But not all of the paintings in this show are on canvas.

Several of them are painted on transparent vinyl Devost had been using to insulate his windows.

“I thought it was interesting that it basically has no background, so the wall that you put it on becomes a part of the painting.”

All the 14 paintings in this show have a topographical style.

He almost can’t help it.

“I think my brain has just become wired to seeing the world that way,” he said. “When I go to a city, I want to see a map of it before I can really explore it - not so much out of direction but out of interest.

“I also think that when you’re standing in the middle of the city you can only see what’s immediately around you, but if you look at something above you have a much better context of the whole picture of a place.”

Now that this show is on, Devost would like to start branching out from the topographic style.

“I’ll probably never stop doing cartographic paintings, it’s wired into my brain,” he said. “There’s just so many possibilities out there and that’s just really exciting.

“It’ll be fun to try a few things out.”

The Grass is Greener opens on Friday at Arts Underground and will be running for a month.

Contact Josh Kerr at

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