Raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Eyland studied art at Holland College, Mount Allison University, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. While in school, he was influenced by artists Robert Morris, On Kawara and Daniel Buren.
Eyland was best known for his work that transformed public spaces and his drawings and paintings done on the small 3 x 5 index card format. In 2005 his installation Untitled, comprised of over 1000 paintings, opened at the Winnipeg's Millennium Library . In 2014 he had two painting installations open at the Halifax Central Library. Library Cards is located behind the front desk and Book Shelf Paintings is on the firth floor . He also has a smaller public art commission of 600 painting titled Sculptures in Landscapes at the Meadows branch of the Edmonton Public Library.
Starting as early as his student days, Eyland's work also engaged library spaces as a part of curated exhibitions. These interventions would see him hide drawings in books and card catalogues in collections at the New School’s Raymond Fogelman Social Sciences and Humanities Library in New York, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Library and Archives in Ottawa and the Muttart Library in Calgary. During his 2012 residency and solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada he showed painting in the vitrine, published an artist book and placed 1000 file card drawings into books in the National Gallery of Canada Library.
Eyland was also a curator and writer and saw those as an extension of his artistic practice. Sine 1983, he wrote a number of pieces of art criticism for Canadian art magazines. His curatorial work included 9 years as a curator at the Technical University of Nova Scotia School of Architecture (Daltech) and freelance work for various galleries, including the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg. From 1995 to 2005, Eyland was vice-president of the board of Plug In. In 1998 he was hired as an associate professor of painting at the University of Manitoba School of Art and director of Gallery One One One positions he held until 2010.
Eyland was represented by Gurevich Fine Art in Winnipeg. His archives are held at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. In 2020, his alma matter Nova Scotia College of Art and Design has set up the Cliff Eyland Memorial Scholarship in his honour.
Eyland's work has been exhibited in public and secret installations in art galleries and libraries across Canada, the United States and Europe. Exhibition highlights include solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the National Gallery of Canada Library & Archives (2012), the New School University in New York City, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Struts Gallery and Gallery Connexion (both in New Brunswick), the Muttart (now the Art Gallery of Calgary), the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, and in Halifax at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, eyelevelgallery, Saint Mary's University Art Gallery and Dalhousie University Art Gallery.
Group exhibitions include shows at the National Gallery of Canada, in Paris at the Maison Rouge museum, in Florence, Italy, Manchester, England, and Lublin, Poland, among others. Eyland's ongoing installation File Card Works Hidden in Books at the Raymond Fogelman Library at the New School University in New York City was regularly updated from 1997 until 2005.
- Hatherly, Dana (May 16, 2020). "Arts community mourns death of Winnipeg's Cliff Eyland, known for transforming libraries with tiny paintings". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
- Carter, Sue (2020-05-19). "Winnipeg artist Cliff Eyland remembered for his card-sized library paintings". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
- "Cliff Eyland Biographical". www.umanitoba.ca. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
- David Diviney (February 18, 2015). "Cliff Eyland Returns to the Library in Halifax Project", Canadian Art. https://canadianart.ca/reviews/cliff-eyland-returns-library-halifax-project/
- Hatherly, Dana (May 16, 2020). "Arts community mourns death of Winnipeg's Cliff Eyland, known for transforming libraries with tiny paintings". CBC News. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "Untitled | The Winnipeg Arts Council". winnipegarts.ca. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
- "Untitled | The Winnipeg Arts Council". winnipegarts.ca. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
- Erica, Butler (2014-12-09). "Q&A: artist Cliff Eyland on his 5,000 paintings project at Halifax Central Library". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
- McIntyre, Heather (June 11, 2019). "Public Art in Public Libraries". www.epl.ca. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
- Eyland, Cliff (2012). Cliff Eyland 2012 : National Gallery of Canada, Library and Archives = Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Bibliothèque et archives. Cliff Eyland. Ottawa, On: Cliff Eyland.
- Smulder, Marilyn (2015-02-02). "Q&A with Cliff Eyland". NSCAD. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
- Cronin, Ray (May 1997). "A reasoned compulsion: An interview with cliff eyland". C : International Contemporary Art. 53: 22 – via Proquest Art, Design & Architecture Collection.
- Botar, Oliver; Jones, Donna. "University of Manitoba - School of Art - Cliff Eyland (1954 - 2020)". University of Manitoba School of Art. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
- "Work Detail from the drawing at the Fogelman Library, New School University". The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art database. Retrieved 2020-05-28.
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