John Devlin, untitled, 1988, collages of colored pencil and ballpoint pen drawings on paper, 21,4 x 27,7 cm, photo : Caroline Smyrliadis, Atelier de numérisation – Ville de Lausanne, Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
John Devlin (1954) was born in Halifax, Canada. He wanted to be a priest and began theological studies at Cambridge in England, when he was twenty-five. He later suffered several psychotic episodes, obliging him to leave university and return to his home town. After several stays in a psychiatric hospital, Devlin began to create an imaginary city inspired by Cambridge, which he called Nova Cantabrigiensis. He has made a set of three hundred small drawings on the theme.
Using ballpoint, coloured pencil and collage, Devlin draws pictures of buildings or gardens, or else cross-section drawings, to which he adds captions and measurements. The work Nova Cantabrigiensis is covered with codes and mathematical formulas which he obsessively associates with the university town. His art is an attempt to appropriate what he considers to be an ideal place, symbolising both a happy period in his life and the fulfilment of his vocation as a priest. Spreading over a period of about ten years, John Devlin's oeuvre is therefore infused with a powerful utopian, nostalgic dimension. He now lives in a community house in a city in his native region.
Collection Neuve Invention