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The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is saddened by the death of artist Cliff Eyland who passed away on May 16, 2020 at the age of 65 in Winnipeg. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Eyland attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the early 1980s. While at the college, his exposure to conceptual strategies that embraced elements of language, process and chance operations led to the systematic approach to art-making, the 3″ x 5″ index card-sized format, for which he has become widely known.

Wall Documentation PolariodAfter moving west in the mid-1990s, Eyland frequently returned to Nova Scotia to visit family and friends and to undertake various projects. In 2000, as the artist-in-residence at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, he developed and exhibited a series of works, an intervention titled Labels, that raised questions about the role of the curator as “gatekeeper” and the museum as arbiter of taste. Parts of this series are included in a total of 46 works by the artist that are now held in the permanent collection. And, of course, there are his Library Cards (2014) and Book Shelf Paintings (2014) that are on permanent display at the Halifax Central Library on Spring Garden Road. This installation of 6000 paintings gives pause to consider the changing function of libraries, from an earlier focus on information gathering to sites for a different type of public engagement altogether today. These are just two examples among others of the dialogue maintained between Eyland and the community here in Atlantic Canada.

Cliff Eyland will be sorely missed by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Beyond his ongoing documentation and critique of the institution, whether it be the library, the archive, or the museum and artworld itself, Eyland’s practice embodied a sense of serious play that will continue to feed further conversation and reflection.


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