Artist Spotlight: Gregory Siff

Aubrey Bowman

Favorite Band: The NationalFavorite Artist: Basquiat.

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Artist: Gregory Siff

City/State: Los Angeles, CA

Website: www.gregorysiff.com

 “I make paintings to hang on your wall, play characters you meet in your dreams, and write stories you heard when you were falling asleep as a kid. I am a force in the world like my father.” – Gregory Siff 

 Gregory Siff creates an emotional narrative in his work with a pure, child-like soul interpreted through an experienced, adult mind. He is an expressive, philosophical and thoughtful artist who conscientiously uses the repetition of rudimentary imagery in his work to convey complex emotions.

 Any one of his paintings will conjure up a plethora of feelings in the viewer covering the full spectrum of emotion—love, fear of failure, sense of accomplishment, childhood nostalgia, feeling the weight of adulthood, feeling alive, feeling perfect, feeling flawed—the list goes on.

 Beyond his extraordinary talent, Greg epitomizes the motivational, internet-meme idioms flooding our Facebook feeds persuading us to give love to get love. He is enthusiastic and devoted to donating his talent and work to charitable efforts. Most recently, he created some crazy cool shirts with Helmut Lang in collaboration with Project Angel Food, an organization devoted to providing food and support to those ailing from HIV, AIDS, cancer and other diseases.

 Along with several other charitable fashion and art collaborations, Greg has recently been named an honorary “Art Ambassador” by Vans Custom Culture to connect with students across the nation in an effort to educate them about art and help them tap into their own creativity.

 As with many great artists, Greg did not necessarily seek out to be a painter. Art found him, and his love for it drove him toward it. His development and rise to notoriety mirrors another meme created by the Instagram-happy Crime by Design that reads, “You do not break into the art world. If you are an artist, the art world will consume you.”

The art world, as well as other creative worlds, is doing just that. Greg belongs to an emerging breed of L.A. painters who are straddling the line between notoriety in the art underworld and full on Hollywood stardom. His work seems to pop up in all the significant galleries around town from Gallery Brown to LabArt and Known Gallery. His work can also be seen on some significant walls on the streets, including a couple big-time collaborations at Art Basel Miami with graffiti legend Risk as well as on the infamous 6th Street Mural at The Standard Hotel.

 It’s a pretty simple equation for Greg. Love art, make art, live art and you will be an artist. He truly exemplifies this sentiment. His style and appearance confirm that he’s a walking work of art. His entire wardrobe appears to be accessorized with varying amounts of paint splatter, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a photo of him without a paint brush or marker in his hands—scribbling on stationary, walls, mirrors or anything else he can find. He’s a compulsive painter to say the least.

 Greg’s work is what art is supposed to be. It tells a story we can connect to; it speaks to us. He is what we want in an artist and a person. He’s passionate and committed; he helps us connect to the world and inspires us to give as much as we take. His Tumblr feed title best summarizes him as the artist and the man…Gregory Siff has a heart.

For those that are just discovering your work can you tell us a little about being from New York, how you ended up in L.A. and the story of how you became an artist?

I was born in Brooklyn and at an early age moved to Rockaway Beach, Queens. It was there that I grew up. I flew out to LA in 2000 to work as an actor. I would find my self going to MOCA and the Getty Museum as a medicine from all that comes with going on the grind of Hollywood. I began hanging out with artists and started painting a lot and found connections with work that I admired. From there I could not go a day without it.

Can you tell us a little bit about working on the project angel food installation, and the inspiration behind it?

Project Angel Food is very important charity. They deliver more than 12,000 meals every week to people who are in need, women and men who are affected by HIV/AIDS, Cancer, and other disease. Over a year ago I painted a mural and donated some pieces to raise awareness for their annual GET ART auction. They contacted me about a special collaboration and night where I would do a full on installation at Helmut Lang and paint on 21 shirts. It was a success and we sold out all of them, 100% of the proceeds going to Project Angel Food. 

Many of your works convey mature messages with a certain childish twist. How do you make such meaningful and sophisticated art that still conveys such a youthful innocence? 

Kids attack a painting with the mind of no mind. They don’t care what you think. They just want to make something and feel good while doing it. There is no mistake and no judgment. When I make a painting that people remember, it is the one that rises up from a real instance in life and told in a way that can not be replicated. I just try to tell my story and use the music and the day to get my point across.

Your art expresses a ton of emotion that connects your thoughts seamlessly to the canvas. That canvas is then viewed by your audience, which strikes the viewers with specific emotions, most likely linking them to another place, time and or image in their minds. How does that direct connection come full circle and affect you personally?

The way my paintings affect me personally are when I  go out into the world and have a day and night with it, and it could be a rough one, and I get back to my studio and the door opens and i turn the light on and smell home and look on the wall and see the paintings that are done and the ones that are in process and ultimately breathe that in, I realize something. It felt good to come home the either night after a shitty one, and say “I love all these places on the wall.  They’re not paintings they are places. They are different places in your life.”  That’s how it affects me personally.

There are many elements to your work, such as paint splatter, drips and loose brushstrokes, which add an intriguing human element to your pieces. How do motion, energy and the physicality of painting tie into your work? 

The blank canvas looks so good when you put the first comment onto it. I go at it fast usually.

How do you know when a work of art is complete?

When you hear it inside you.

It seems like a lot of artists today, including yourself, have to manage and embrace a certain level of fame much like that of Warhol and Basquiat. How is that a part of being a successful artist? How do you enjoy, struggle and cope with the lime light?

The more you do what you love and enjoy it, I mean really enjoy it, the more contagious it becomes. People want to know where it comes from and it is an attractive thing to find bliss in what you do. I have just been doing that and finding myself in different locations across the world, meeting others who love what they do and it really is rewarding to leave a mark on people in person and in paint. Art is like the new Hip-Hop my friend Cyde 1 said. And it is, people are collecting it and lace their screensavers and walls with it and feel good about it. That’s the kinda fame I would want to leave. Is that I made someone happy for a moment or forever with something I made.

You’ve done a lot of brand collaboration and design work. What draws you to this work, and how has it affected your career? 

I am very attracted to fashion and function and where art exists when it is off the canvas. It is a beautiful challenge to take the gut feeling that makes someone want to paint a painting, and then place that say on a leather jacket or female body. All of the collaborations that I have worked on have helped raise money for some very important causes. Charity is so closely braided with art. I was just the featured artists to paint at CAMP 2E with the kids at Soze Gallery and Time to Shine Gallery.

What other creative endeavors do you work on outside of painting? 

I’m addicted to fashion and magazines and love designing wearable work, sculpture, I make these intense wood crowns and trophies. I love film and wrote a story of the creative life that I will be making next year as well. It’s based on my life, van Gogh’s, and all the real experiences that come along with submitting and committing to a creative life.

What person, place, or thing has greatly influenced your life, creativity and thought process? 

My father. I connect with him when I’m doing what I love. So I try to paint very often just so I can dial in.

What is coming up for you, and what can we look forward to?

I am working on Art Basel Miami at the moment where I am turning The Clinton Hotel into The Gregory Hotel and will paint on site at the property and have a really dope exhibition in the lobby, I like experiences so I want to create something people will remember and have a good time walking into. There’s a lot on my plate and I’m grateful. I just have to remember to take it one day at a time.
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