Michael Cleff was born in 1961 in Bochum, Germany, and was trained both as a ceramist and sculptor. He had many solo and group exhibitions in the United States and in Europe and his work is exhibited in the American Craft Museum in New York, the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art in Mino, Japan, The Ceramic Museums of Sèvres and Vallauris in France and Faenza in Italy and in all the major ceramics and applied arts museums in Germany.
Michael Cleff works with just a few formal elements, which he varies and places in new relationships with each other. His minimalist concept is based on fundamental recurring geometric forms - the circle, the square, the rectangle, the ellipse - and on a reduced, monochromatic use of colour. Anyone confronted with Cleff's sculptures for the first time, his geometrical shapes and multi-storeyed rotunda, will be reminded of buildings. It would be fallacious to maintain that his sculptures are representations (albeit distorted or alienated ones) of real buildings, but it cannot be denied that they radiate an archaic force and astonishing monumentality. The clay forms he constructs have been fired as hard as clinker and the subjects he draws on, the relationship between the basic ground plan and the total volume, the way vertical and horizontal interact readily suggest parallels with architecture. The various elements composing the surfaces create their own rhythms, the internal and external interlock. Cleff's sculptures not only react to the space around them but also define spaces ("rooms") within themselves, modelling the light which enters them through their openings.
Cleff's minimalist style is Spartan, but not cold. He avoids an overload of stimuli to enable us satisfying perception. He constructs and opens rooms for us, and by doing so, he unlocks our own inner rooms, refuges for our thoughts, where we can withdraw in our imagination.