Yau writes: "Taaffe’s paintings teem with activity, moving from the visceral to the ghostly. Our attention keeps changing gears, never finding stability. Seeing is akin to excavation, to sifting through the details without losing sight of the entire arrangement or the different layers. Every symbol and sign seems to possess an arcane power whose potential is waiting to be put to use. Taaffe’s close attention to similarity and difference endows the paintings with a state of heightened seeing often associated with hallucinations. The radiant light coming from within the paintings, the oscillations and sudden shifts between figure and ground enhance our experience. I don’t think of his paintings as illuminated manuscripts so much as glowing screens. It seems to me that he has evolved from scribe to seer — a transmitter of trance states in a digital age."
Commenting on the sources for his work, Taaffe remarks: "I have this idea in my head that I am referencing ancient art and the idea of the scribe. Several of the paintings in the exhibition are derived from what I think of as illuminated manuscript paintings, so in other words I am trying to get in touch with this earlier art historical reality and trying to update it in my own sense… the idea of the scribe, the idea of the mosaic patterning, has to do with ancient craftsmanship being brought up to date and being filtered through my own artistic desire, I suppose, in terms of what I would like to see in the world."
Andrew Russeth visits the exhibition Alchemy and Inquiry: paintings by Philip Taaffe, Fred Tomaselli, and Terry Winters at Wave Hill Estate in the Bronx. Russeth writes: "With each artist featured in a separate room, it's easy to see their three distinct visions clearly. My favorite in the tripartite melee is Taaffe, whose paintings are populated with forms that recall amoebae and deep-sea creatures. They almost appear to pulse and vibrate in front of you." Be sure to click through for a link to the on-line catalogue.
Alchemy and Inquiry is on view through June 19, 2011.
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.