Clayton Schiff

Imagined creatures in uncanny worlds.

Clayton Schiff (he/him) was born in 1987 in New York, United States, where he continues to live and work.

Art Fairs

In 2022, Schiff's paintings were showcased at the Los Angeles Felix Art Fair. His work was singled out and received rave reviews from ARTnews and Artnet.

Education

He studied for his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009. Based in Providence, United States, it has many notable alumni – Jenny Holzer, Nicole Eisenmann, Laura Owens and Do-Ho Suh all studied here.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Clayton Schiff paints endearing, hybrid human-animals. Depicted in oppressive empty rooms, sparse parks, or in front of city tower blocks, they convey alienation with humour. A doodler since he was a child, Schiff's ideas come from daily walks and mundane occurrences. These are catalogued as sketches, and then rehashed later on canvas. He paints using soft, imprecise brushwork in muted, subtle colours. Often in green, ochre, apricot and delicate pink. Further inspiration comes from comics, dioramas and the fantastical illustrations of Maurice Sendak.

Schiff avoids a straightforward narrative. Instead, he creates paintings that follow their own internal logic. He plays with the positive and negative space, perspective, and proportion. Where there should be shadows of objects and people, there aren't. Time also appears suspended – like the dreamscapes of the early Surrealists Max Ernst and Georgio de Chirico. Other elements are portrayed in realistic ways. This creates an inconsistency that gives the imagery a hard-to-pin-down, mysterious power. They act as compelling, unsolvable puzzles. Custom-built worlds where his absurd characters can exist.

"There's an optimism in the paintings in that they convert harsh states of mind into a kind of absurdist melodrama, to give them some humour and levity" Clayton Schiff