The Gagosian Gallery is currently showing Philip Taaffe’s first solo exhibition in Britain. Two rooms of monumental paintings, some psychedelic technicolor, some in muted tonal palettes, that present and play with cultural symbols from Africa, Ancient Greece and the Middle and Far East.
The Attractively Unsubtle
The most memorable paintings are three vibrant, tie-die-effect triangular canvases. The repetition of the triangular canvas is reflected in the repetition of the tiling technique used to create the surface. The paintings are vaguely reminiscent of stained glass but the flatness and intensity of the colour is not warm or expressive – it’s brash and attractively unsubtle. They dominate the gallery space and stand separately from the majority of the softer, more gently-hued paintings on show.
The collision and compression of alternate cultures..
Taaffe’s background in automatic and organic expressive painting is not apparent in this exhibition. In this collection there is a duality of American Pop Art – the playing with the ideas of reproduction in painting and printing, and images from other cultures – African fetish masks, the Buddah’s face, masks from Ancient Greek dramas and others.
The collision and compression of these alternate cultures is reflected in the flattened pictorial space. For me, Taaffe’s flattening and unifying of thousands of years of diverse cultures is frustrating.
The paintings show a lot of things from a lot of different places but they don’t engage with one another or the audience. This of course may be the point.
The exhibition runs at The Gagosian Gallery until the 14th May
Admission is free
Image by Rob McKeever courtesy of Gagosian Gallery