Philip Taaffe: “one of the best painters in the world”

The quote above came from an article in Interview Magazine and The New York Times (sorry about the lack of dates … it’s so annoying trying to find dates from older articles posted on the internet!).  For about 10 years I’ve known Philip, bumping into him while on short escapades from his studio to see the latest art exhibitions at auction or in the various galleries that dot Chelsea.  On the odd occasion, I advised him on art purchases that he said inspired him to do his work. And so with time, I learned to admire the man and his work… to start, you don’t get Larry Gagosian to represent you if you’re not at the top of your game.  I thought of his art as being exceptional but “one of the best in the world” never really crossed my mind.

About a year ago I saw the light.  Philip invited me to his studio.  I was finally able to see the artist at work and to begin understanding what makes him tick.  Months later, seeing one of his paintings at auction, the penny dropped. Unlike many contemporary artists who are on the perpetual hamster wheel trying to invent a new visual stimulus for the trendy art lover with ADD, Philip is perpetually in reconsideration of the past, of older historical sources and drawing connections between the things, experiences and people in his life and somehow filtering all this into his art.  Frankly, I would need a margarita to do the work, but Philip does all this and more while sober! Amazing.
An example of this filtering is Tsuba Colony (image above).  To my eye, Philip explores and borrows from the vast historical and cultural vocabulary of Japan and layers his canvas with extravagant patterns, muted colors and optical rhythm. Using hand-printed images of the tsuba (the hand guard mounted on a Japanese sword to protect the hand from the blade) to populate his canvas, the artist then adds coils of razor wire over them, not only to echo the shapes of the blade guard but to bring to the consciousness of the observer that the tsuba is there to protect from harm.
Image credit: © Philip Taaffe. Tsuba Colony; signed, titled and dated ‘Tsuba Colony/1994-95/Philip Taaffe’; acrylic, metal foil and ink on canvas; 113 x 152 in. | 287 x 386.1 cm.  The artist is represented by the Gagosian Gallery, Manhattan.

A note to my reader’s in China and the Far East.  Kindly note that Philip’s work is currently in the show Alchemy & Inquiry at the James Cohan Gallery Shanghai from 9 September – 19 November 2011. It is a show focusing on nature and the natural world that was recently in New York City.

一個到我的讀者的注意,在中國和遠東地區。請注意,菲利普的工作目前正在顯示煉金術詢問 James Cohan畫廊上海9月9日 –201111月19日。它注重性質和最近在紐約市的自然世界,是一個顯示