Philip Taaffe's art draws from numerous decades and art movements, most notably the 1970s Pattern and Decoration and the 1980s practices of appropriation and juxtaposition. Always involving an element of collage, Taaffe manipulates shape, color, and pattern to materialize an aspect of the abstract sublime. "What do I want my art to accomplish? What do I expect it to be like as a physical encounter? I think the best thing one can hope for is to be able to enter another world" (P. Taaffe, Statement for Confluence, University of California at San Diego, 2001).
Rhythm in painting is crucial to Taaffe. Capella, 1991 incorporates concentric spirals arranged with a grid-within-a-grid composition that gives the illusion of constant, psychedelic movement within the painting itself while being self-referential to the flatness of the picture plane. "The spiral in fact is a circle seen in time: picture a particle traveling through space. It is not spiraling at all, just traveling in a circle. It is time that is moving along: [Taaffe] having seized it has then made a flattened projection of it" (C. Wehrenberg, Philip Taaffe: New Paintings, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 2000, p. 10).
The circular visual movement of the spiral contrasts against the linear orientation of the grid, which lends to the overall balanced effect of the structured and the organic.
Capella (1992) embodies the importance of kinetics and aesthetics in Taaffe's oeuvre and is an extraordinary example of the artist's approach to a decorative sublime. The repetition of form and evocation of rhythm through the spirals creates a sense of complete immersion within the canvas. "My attitude towards repetition has to do with the cumulative effect of the continuous applications of line and colorThey become some kind of actively structured field. I see that as being an entrance to a trance-like state. I'm interested in inviting the possibility for ecstatic experience, for getting outside of stasis" (P. Taaffe, Statement for Confluence, 2001).