Interview with abstract artist Gregory Siff and his show “A Matter of Time” at Gallery Brown – by Jennifer Goff
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Gregory Siff is a name that has been ruminating around Los Angeles for the past couple of years, particularly in the street art scene. Recently the artist has transitioned into gallery work that further explores his particular unique abstract style. Gallery Brown has recently decided to present Siff and his latest body of work entitled “Matter of Time”, which is an abstract look into the mind of the artist. The paintings explore Hollywood backdrops, and the influence of fame and art…and how sometimes the two coalesce.
Warholian guest correspondent Jennifer Goff had a chance to sit down with Siff before his show…
Jennifer Goff: Born in Brooklyn, you moved to L.A. to pursue working in film. How long after that did you start painting? What inspired the switch in creative focus?
Gregory Siff: You don’t have to audition to make a painting.
Jennifer Goff: If a painting isn’t going the way you want it to are you inclined to start over or embrace the idea of ‘happy accidents’?
Gregory Siff: Most of the time I like working with accidents. That is a challenge and it looks good when you make it work. If a piece is beyond saving I paint like crazy over it till it’s thick and let it dry. Then start again.
They look thicker that way. I call them the scabs of a painting, wounds that look good.
Jennifer Goff: Two previous solo shows “There And Back: LA/NY” and “G.” were one night only affairs, but your current show at Gallery Brown will be running for a full month after opening on October 20th. Is this indicative of a larger body of work or an increased desire to plant yourself in the art world more fully?
Gregory Siff: I like painting stories. I like taking where I am right now in time and capturing it. Whether it’s paintings, sculpture, notes on napkin. Paintings are memories made concrete.
Jennifer Goff: Your work encapsulates a freedom of form with abstract, line-driven shapes and imperfect splashes of paint. Do these compositions come to life with ease or do you have to take time to structure them with the right balance? I guess what I’m asking is, would you consider your process closer to true gesture work or do you use a more self-conscious approach?
Gregory Siff: I have a moment where I go free form on everything in the room and then let it dry and edit out the parts that don’t translate to me. If a line is to manic or not alive I can go in and add the comment. Good paintings are like good conversations. If it’s all, How are you? I’m good. Then no one is going to want to engage in the paintings. I like to listen to music that fits my mood and then just go in on it.
Jennifer Goff: With a style that seems to reference the neo-expressionism of Basquiat and the faux-naïve drawings of Ray Johnson, your paintings invoke an emotional response through a highly-charged simplification of representation and a palette confined to the primary colors red, yellow and blue. Is it too reductive to say you aim to express concepts in their simplest forms?
Gregory Siff: I like taking the complex things in life, like heartbreak, highs, lows, death, love, fate, destiny, work and putting them through my mind and delivering them back the way I deal with it. Like an experiment of a person, I feel like I am in this studio painting and working and feeling and thinking for two months straight building these things and the pieces are all done and in the gallery and now that they are there it’s like little flicks of dna are on glass microscope slides and they are hanging on a wall for all to see. Scientists looking at it saying, “Oh he went there that night,” and, “oh this is where he was smiling.” I love that concept. I feel that you’re a good expressionist if they can feel your dna.
Jennifer Goff: You’ve mentioned including text within paintings to as a way to remind yourself of certain life moments you want to remember but you also use it as a way to communicate with your viewers. Is it odd to think how strangers will relate to your work or understand your intentions?
Gregory Siff: No. As soon as you get on stage you have to be willing to share with everyone what breaks your heart. Cameron Thor told me that, a rad acting coach. If you know what breaks your heart, could be a good thing or bad thing, then it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. It’s you and it’s real.
Jennifer Goff: Do you think your work endears itself to a specific crowd more than others? More to a Street Art scene than a Hollywood one, or etc?
Gregory Siff: My work is dug by the 13 year old getting up in the streets and the 50 year old with the Hockney in the living room.
Jennifer Goff: One of my favorite things about street art is that it’s more geared toward collaborations than most artistic communities. You’ve collaborated a lot in the past, what have been some of your favorite examples? Do you take specific inspiration from any artists you work with?
Gregory Siff: The artists I collaborate with are the ones that I am amazed by, wish I could do what they do, and they are forces in the world. Their hearts beat at a loud pace and I like that because I feel that in myself. In Matter of Time I collaborated with some of the best of my friends from the Creative Cartel and legends. James Georgopoulos, RISK, Louis XXX, Cyde-1, 2wenty and MAR.
Collaborating for me is also about getting a good burger and a coke as well as painting a dope piece.
Jennifer Goff: Thank you for taking time for all the questions on a busy day, Gregory! Congrats on your show!
For more on this show, visit Gallery Brown here: http://gallerybrown.com/art/
To see more of Gregory Siff, visit his page here: http://gregorysiff.tumblr.com/