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Dec. 12, 2019 | Thursday
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Jesse Lepp: An artistic mind finds its way to Mikreations
Jesse Lepp has a gallery showing off his art at Mikreations on Niagara Stone Road. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

If you’re looking for something a little different, in art, philosophy, and genuine eccentricity, Jesse Lepp might have what you seek.

The NOTL artist will be displaying his take on modern art at Mikreations Art and Frame Gallery on Niagara Stone Road until Sept. 28.

Lepp, a local artist, self identifies as eccentric, thoughtful and shy, relating what he calls an “unconventional” approach to painting with his way of approaching most things in life – he consumes information and then offers criticism on the subject in his own striking and unique way.

Lepp once considered himself a writer, and though he says he hasn’t given up the craft, he finds people are more receptive of his art than they were of his commentary.

“I thought I was a writer, but I became more eccentric in my writing. In writing, that’s a problem but in painting, people seem to like eccentricity. So, I made a quick shift there and started to paint a little bit more, and people seemed to enjoy it,” Lepp said.

He’s been experimenting with different styles of painting for about 10 years but has continued to work with oil on canvas.

Mike Penner, owner of Mikreations, says Lepp wandered into the gallery one day and the two have spent several years building a strong relationship.

“I think Jesse has a really important voice in our community, and I’ve always been very favourable to what he’s been bringing in,” Penner says.

The creation of the current series of paintings on display was very much a collaborative effort, Lepp says. He brought paintings in to show Penner and the two would discuss each piece, deciding how to move forward.

“For this show in particular I would bring the paintings in to Mike and we would evaluate them. I would either take them home and rework them or bring them back here,” Lepp says.

Penner says Lepp’s work always evokes thought and emotion, but this series had a lighter, relatable sense, without losing that dramatic emotion, that he felt would reach a wider audience.

Lepp began this series while reading
100 Artist’s Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists.

“I was reading a book of manifestos and I was painting based off what I was reading. The more I read, the more the manifestos seemed to be telling a story,” he says.

That story was one of modernism. He says he started to realize that the authors were all revolutionaries, but he wasn’t one.

“So, what do I have to say about modern art. How do you bring out the modernism without the revolution?”

With painting, he says it’s simple, “You just want to paint something beautiful.”

“You try to make it as beautiful as the other paintings you’ve seen in your life that are beautiful, you try to make beautiful paintings without lying,” he says.

To do that, he says you can’t be too romantic about the subject. “Try to paint something that admits that there’s a real problematic world.”

With that idea in mind, he creates what he calls thoughtful paintings.

“As Conrad said, “To be able to think and unable to express is torture.” So, it’s important to keep expressing and thinking,” Lepp says.

Inspiration for each of the bright, bold and abstract pieces came from the passages of the manifestos, which he says conveyed a lot of “spirit and life.”

“I had never seen writing with so many exclamation points. And there would be funny stuff in there, like “the horizontal line is dead. Exclamation mark.” And then I would go to the paintings, and I would be like, yea, I don’t like horizontal lines anymore, for some reason.”

As he continued making his way through the book, inspiration from the manifestos continued to drive his craft.

“Paintings must be green — With 10 e’s in it, and exclamation mark (greeeeeeeeeen!). So, I would do a green painting, or a red painting. Reds must be red, exclamation mark, and then repeated again. Red’s repeated 10 times each time with an exclamation mark,” Lepp says, adding “It’s funny stuff to read.”

But he managed to capture that lively spirit of the book dramatically and emotionally on canvas.

With much of Lepp’s work, he says he challenges himself to create a certain style, and then he sees where that takes him.

“I put a challenge toward myself. I ask, can you do this? And then I try to do it,” Lepp says.

Who might be interested in Lepp’s paintings?

“Hopefully, people with walls will come in and see something they like,” Lepp says.

Penner chimes in, “People with good taste.”

Mikreations is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Monday and Tuesday by chance or by appointment.

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