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Greg Cliffe

Search terms: oil, alle fresco, figurative, abstract

About the Artist

Greg Cliffe's paintings are figurative narratives about change in family and social values. He attempts to make everyday life an archetypal reflection on human behaviour.

The paintings focus on Sydney families and their surrounding communities over several generations. Cliffe draws on stories and photo-documentation in juxtaposing events and places from different times with present social concerns. He peels back the strata of accumulated memory of people and spaces to form a layering of substance, sensation and thought. The paintings' layers form a totalised time much like the writing of Allende or Woolf.

Cliffe intends his audiences to see an immediate connection with subject matter through similarities in their own experience. He achieves this by making the picture space an extension of the viewer's space and by making the tactile, sensual paint surfaces engage their audience in emotive ways. The audience is expected to leave the exhibition with work to do about the emotional content of the paintings.

The paintings create an aura or visual energy that symbolises the passage of family and cultural memory through morphic resonance over time. The combination of traditional oil techniques of imprimatura and glazing with alle fresco syringe and paintwork has enabled him to accentuate the vast chasms of sensibility that exist between different times, classes and even blood relatives.


2002 - Graduated, Master of Arts (Hons)-Contemporary Arts at The University of Western Sydney, Nepean
1978 - Diploma of Art from Alexander Mackie CAE

Selected exhibitions and awards:

2003 - Group Show, Alleyway Arts, Springwood, New South Wales, Australia
2002 - Commended, The Daffodil Day Arts Awards by The Victoria Cancer Council,
2001 - One artist show, Tin Sheds Art Gallery, University of Sydney, "Fragmented Values: Compulsive Lives"
2001-03 Selected Festival of Fisher's Ghost Art Awards, Open Section
2000 - Awarded Painting Prize, Blue Mountains Community Arts Council Annual show
2000 - Set Designs for Springwood Theatre Company and Department of School Education, Penrith District Office, "Lockie Leonard: Human Torpedo" and "Living Books"
1999-2000 Seminar papers at University of Western Sydney Post-Graduate Symposiums, entitled "In Progress". (5/8/00), "Issues in Art Criticism" (11/6/99) & "Diversity in Contemporary Arts Theory & Practice" (4/12/99)
1994 - Group show at Queen of Arts Gallery, Katoomba
1994 - One artist show, "Wild & Domestic" at Wentworth Falls School of Arts
1984 Residency: Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris, two performances: "The Medium is the Message" and "A European Perspective"
1984 - Visual Arts Board Travel Grant
1982 - Granted The Moya Dyring Studio, Paris by Art Gallery of New South Wales
1980 - Three Performances, Leichhardt Performance Festival: "The Bomb", "Come on Aussie" and "The Medium is the Message"
1980 -  Performance at Australian Capitol Territory 2nd Performance Festival, Canberra
1980 - First Prize RAS Sculpture Prize
1979 - Performances at Ivan Dougherty Gallery," The Editor" and "Diploma Game"
1979 - Group Show, sculpture at The Students' Gallery, Leichhardt
1979 - Highly Commended, RAS Sculpture Prize
1978 - One artist show, The Students' Gallery, Leichhardt

"Fragmented Values: Compulsive Lives" By Greg Cliffe

An exhibition of paintings at The Tin Sheds Gallery, Faculty of Architecture, 154 City Road, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia , September 21st -October 13th, 2001.

"My inner-city family and community witnessed intense social dislocation through demographic changes to Sydney during the 20th century. The fracturing of communities created the fragmentation of value systems and increased compulsive behaviour. Nuclear family, loss of kinship and isolation buried old familial and community ties."

"I have become preoccupied with how we deal with change and socio- political events differently to people in previous generations and communities. My work therefore draws on verbal narrative and photo-documentation of past and present lives. The influence of writers such as Isabel Allende and Virginia Woolf, who focus on memory and temporal qualities have inspired this approach."

"The use of narrative in my painting, where events and interactions from different lives are juxtaposed, encourages my audience to compare their personal experiences with the stories contained in my work. I see similarities between my work and the British filmmaker Mike Leigh, though he does tend to work in a single time frame. Any judgements my audience makes, prompted by the artwork, are based on similar experiences to their own. My characters commence the painting process as chronicled persons but, as the painting evolves, become fictional characters in a fictional narrative that acts a timeless fable."

"My work proposes the theory, that at anyone moment, family, community, cultural and historical memories culminate in one thought, action or process. Through an overlaying of moments, past and present, I hope to achieve a mixture of substance, sensation and thought-much like Proust's totalised time. Through the peeling back of strata of memories I hope to achieve a true reality, a deepening of awareness, an insight to share with my audience."

"The use of figuration in my work ties the content of my painting to the audience. In my painting, the illusionary representation of human form and spaces engages the audience with the interactions between depicted characters and their behaviour. As in the paintings of Caravaggio, the picture spaces often give the illusion of being an extension of the viewer's space."

"Audiences are also engaged by the tactility of the painted surface and its affect on the sensations of the viewer. The corporeal nature of my canvases is integral to the existence of temporal depths in my painting. The combination of traditional oil techniques of Imprimatura, glazing and chiaroscuro with more direct alle fresco and linear syringe painting, has enabled me to accentuate the vast chasms of sensibility that exist between different times, classes and even blood relatives. This difference in sensibilities highlights the vast change in values that has occurred in a short period of time."
Greg Cliffe

Greg Cliffe - Faith, Hope and Enmity Greg Cliffe - Sex & the Circus Greg Cliffe - Hysteria 1

122 X 168 cm

154 X 103 cm

76 X 110 cm

To view more of Greg's work email Greg at

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Page last updated 18 March, 2007