“Rainer Maria Rilke said that, ‘A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity,” said the young man that smiled from ear to ear, with paint spots in his hair and faint shadows under his bones.
The first thing that struck me was how many ideas were in the room. It was overwhelming. There were ideas on the walls, on the table, on the floor. There were ideas on the sheet that was meant to protect the floor from ideas. We crept across the floor and tried to find a place to start gathering these ideas.
“I don’t know what you want to shoot,” he said, running his hands through his hair. He looked as though he’d only then become aware that he also lived in this space. “I don’t know what angle you guys are going for.”
I looked around the room and tried once more to take everything in. I laughed in a short breath.
“Look where we are. You’re the angle bro.”
“People look at what I do and think, ‘That looks easy, I could do that’,” he said, as he sat back on the floor and looked over the desperate scrawled text and thick botches of stark primary colors that covered the room. He looked to us and smiled. “I say ‘Try it’. It takes a long time to make this look effortless.”
Drawing huge inspiration from artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and close friend Louis XXX, Siff has a penchant for merging elements of stark, bare prose and thick, spontaneous paint splices together, releasing the enormous, vibrant level of self-expression that defines the work he produces. His pieces often reject points of centrality or direct focus, forcing his lines, colors and words to battle for attention within the space. While it always makes for an engaging experience, never does it seem quite so relevant and poignant as when he depicts Los Angeles.
Siff’s art is at once a structurally simplistic yet complex example of expressionism that sits patiently waiting to be allocated its ‘post’ or ‘neo’ preface. It’s difficult to precisely pin down and has been gradually dropping the few traditional ‘street art’ elements that it once coveted in favor of abstract form and a general aural of ambiguity. He maintains his ‘G’ tag in the bottom corner of each painting, but that almost feels like a forced tear.
But he does tend to get back on the streets in the build up to solo shows, using the social media culture and #graffiti as a platform for promotion. His latest exhibit “Matter of Time” is opening on October 20th and deals with the notion of time, and the increasingly ominous echoes of ticking clocks. As he drips regal blue ink into the center of a pocket watch screen he cracked with a claw hammer, he explains the huge impact that his father’s death had on his work ethic.
“It teaches you that you’re not infinite, and that you don’t have time to sit around watching TV, doing nothing.” He points the claw hammer at the big flatscreen TV, tucked behind the sofa, safe-ish from the wayward paintbrush flicks and composer’s ink blotches. “I haven’t turned that on in months. But sometimes I wish I could just sit back and watch American Idol for a few hours without fighting the urge to throw paint at things.”
And sitting in his living room two days before the hand-in deadline for his show, you can understand that. The corner of his house that was once a small workspace has grown like an organism. More dustsheets were thrown down, the coffee table was pushed to the wall, the window was propped open to let the fumes float away. His unrelenting necessity to create and express himself is the singular enormous blip in his otherwise wonderfully warm, curious and unpretentious character. It’s that alone that stops him from ever being able to be ‘normal’.
Gregory looked around at the extensive psychological field study that he had created on impulse. It occurred to me that that when the paintings come down and are sent to be hung on the bright emulsion walls of Gallery Brown, what’s left around the edges will be just as revealing about the character and compulsions of the creator.
We took to the streets once he’d finished tagging up the pre-show publicity crowns that he’d pilfered, and then purchased after having a bout of guilt, from Burger King. Crawling along Sunset Blvd. we looked for places to hang the crowns. We’d find a spot, pick a hat that had a word on it that corresponded to the surroundings, and hang it.
We stood across the street and watched. The valet manager for West Hollywood’s Pink Taco walked towards the Ferrari parked outside. He picked up the crown that we had slid onto the rear view mirror.
“Come on man!” shouted Gregory, cupping his hands around his mouth. Hearing us, the man looked around. He caught sight of us and smiled. He propped the hat on the hostess’ head. He gave us the thumbs up. Gregory jumped and clapped his hands.
“That’s the beauty of that kind of stuff man,” he said as we walked on, “More often than not people can fuck around with it and it actually turns out better. That’s art.”
The opening reception of Greg’s latest solo show ‘Matter of Time’ will start on Saturday October 20th at Gallery Brown. All information regarding the show can be found here.
Words by Ross Gardiner (https://rossgardinersblog.wordpress.com/)
Photography by Anders Rostad (http://andersrostad.com/)
THE COMPULSIVE CREATIONS OF GREGORY SIFF