Friday, May 22, 2009

Artist: Philip Taaffe

Dance of the Phasmidae (2007).jpg
Spiraling portal, 2007
DryadicFigures2006.jpg     Composition with Shells and Algae, (2005) .jpg
Dryadic Figures, 2006   Composition with Shells and Algae, 2005

Damascus.jpg  La Sciara 2000-2001.jpg 
Damascus, 2001                     La Sciara, 2001

Facade.jpg  Desert-Nocturne.jpg
Facade, 2001                 Desert Nocturne, 2000

Sigiri-Mass.jpg  Painting-with-Eight-Pointed.jpg
Sigiri Mass 1998   Painting with 8 pointed figure 1998
Notturno.jpg  Old-Cairo.jpg
Notturno, 1989                Old Cairo, 1989

 Visit: and you will have  tour of the artist's studio with work being carried out in the Fall of 2008.

Taaffe by Felver

In 2008 the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg organised a retrospective survey, The Life of Forms in Art: Paintings 1980-2008, with a publication by Hanje Cantz. This is a large and sgnificant book on this artist with some engaging writing on his work. One afternoon in Melbourne late last year I found a comfy chair in a wonderful bookstore and read at length from this wonderful publication. I made a note from the text: "what the evolution of language meant for the development of society is what the evolution of the ornamental meant for the history of art" by Niklas Luhmann and pondered this in relation to Taaffe's paintings.

 I have been gazing at his work of an on these past 2 or so years, having read from the 1998  publication Composite Nature where Taaffe dialogues with Stan Brakkage ...a most interesting read. The tone of the conversation was so different to a great many contemporary dialogues around art. This is also an appealing factor as one explores this artist. He seems to have struck such a deep and rich vein of  the visual continuum in human history.

And just now I have found in my journal from the past year I'd documented a quote from the conversation between Robert Creeley and Philip Taaffe in a publication from Valencia: IVAM Centre del Carme, in 2000 where they discuss Taaffe's  idea that "Painting is where these symbolic languages or forms somehow crystallise and reveal their ancestry.....and that in turn shows a certain sense of future other words a continuum.... I feel an important purpose for art is to  demonstrate this range of that tries to take into consideration archaic realms, but at the same time moves forward to explore unexpected new territory...or reaffirm an old territory... imaginative territories."
"...the idea of language from a previous time being made speakable again."

This is an artist who speaks loudly to me on some level I am not even that clear about...that I dont quite have words for. His website allows you to survey his work over almost 3 decades...a magnificent acheivement in itself. Then there are quite accessible interviews and statements that take you closer to learning something of this artist's journey and pre-occupations. One critical commentary titled Philip Taaffe: Celebrations by Roger Lipsey suggests that "Taaffes art seems a naturally loving response to the beauty and authority of life itself and the transformative powers of the imagination". 
This essay  compares Matisse's love of decoration to Taaffe's. "Decoration never apologises for its presence in his art" Lipsey says of Matisse "he had this interest and it opens a kind of attribute of well-being". For Taaffe, he suggests, "decoration is a structuring tool that allows him to praise the richness of things. The decorative qualities, of Taaffe's art are an exuberant homage to life itself...we are offered things never seen before, things drawn from distant pasts, energetically woven as in a textile or tesserated as in mosaic".
Perhaps the reason I have found this artist's work so compelling is this enormous sweep of ideas and forms, and the layering in his work. Images shift between contemporary and archaic, the process and rhythym in the work draws one in. Colours challenge and provoke, dont always harmonise. Animated surfaces and energetic compositions make for images to arrest your attention.
Do visit the website if you wish to view more of his work.

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