Grégoire Devin, an up and coming 34 year old French artist, brilliantly evokes mental, urban ideas through his paintings. While using street art as a base, Devin integrates concepts and styles that draw from the early facets of childhood art, his travels, and his interactions with street culture and graffiti. Growing up in Nantes, France, Grégoire Devin was raised in an environment that encouraged artistic development. His innovative experimentation with art, drawing and playing music, began at a very young age. Today, Devin is a prolific artist with two group shows coming up, one in Montserrat Gallery in New York City from November 28 – December 12 and at Red Dot Art Fair in Miami from December 5 – 9 during Miami Basel.
His work emulates the ideas and concepts of youthful art, as his collage-like canvases read almost as a vehicle for his stream of conscience. His paintings are filled with doodles of figuration and abstraction. In this regard, Grégoire Devin’s work is reminiscent of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. Like Devin, Basquiat’s work focused on making social commentaries through this intersection of graffiti and street art with other styles of more formal painting.
I recently spoke with Grégoire Devin to discuss the personal reflection that can be seen in his works, and where his inspiration stems from as each canvas unravels into something new.
NY Arts: These paintings seem to represent facets of a personal narrative, is there something diaristic about them? Have the phrases you employ been ripped from pages of your own journal?
Grégoire Devin: That’s exactly it. My work is both a personal journal and my reflection of society that I observe each day through family, friends and media. In a way, I am revealing my secrets while at the same time giving my own interpretation of what I see around me by using words, symbols, humor, and provocation. Each painting is like a page of a newspaper, and it can be turned one after another. That’s why I can’t seem to work on several paintings at the same time. I need to finish one before starting another. Even if each painting has a specific theme, there is a connection between every one of them, as if a story is being told.
This connecting theme of individual revelation is highly visible in Devin’s painting titled “Back II the Source,” where text boxes are scratched into the canvas alongside cut and pasted illustrations. Pops of red, blue, and orange are scrawled along the canvas among more subtle browns and blacks. Shapes and lines are scribbled against the words and drawings. The work is playful and funny, as headless bodies are woven in and out of edited text with marked up and crossed out statements in childlike handwriting.
Grégoire Devin, Back II the Source, 2012. 120 x 120 cm, Mixed media.
While using a style similar to Basquiat, Grégoire Devin updates his own work to a contemporary level, as he relays ideas about the reworkings of urban space through his paintings. Even as a child, Devin felt an extreme pull to urban street culture and street art. As he grew older, he became fascinated with the contrasting charm and allure of the dark alleys of Brooklyn and Harlem, and by the lively atmosphere of poetry in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Grégoire Devin’s travels and insights on the distinctive street culture in these different locations across the globe, are conveyed in his works. In this sense, his works speak to real life, and what it feels like to live right now.
Gaining much influence from his own personal life and narrative, Devin draws on this reflection of society in his painting “Go Play a Video Game.” This work largely consists of bold white text on a black background. In the center of the canvas, a Christ figure stands among the words. Each white letter stems off as an extension of this looming figure in the middle. The artist’s personal thoughts and playfulness connect in this work, with sayings such as “You win” and “Welcome to the World” scribbled in the darkness. The painting seems to reflect fleeting thoughts that emerged in his mind.
Potrait of the artist.
As his paintings are almost a maze of his thoughts inspired by his travels, Devin’s compositions are busy and dense with collage and imagery, but not in an overwhelming way. At first glance, you may seem lost, as it’s hard to decipher Grégoire Devin’s code of what these images and words or phrases are doing placed together on the same canvas. But being lost in Devin’s work is not a bad thing. It’s while lost in the labyrinth of ideas and depictions of urban life Devin displays for us, the viewer is able to become fully engulfed by his ideas, as his works ask us to rethink our relationship to the vast urban space around us.