Regarded as one of the most influential painters of contemporary British art, Patrick Hughes mixes sculpture with pop art, surrealism and geometry. His inspiration? Hiding from the Germans in WWII
Birmingham born artist Patrick Hughes has blown many a mind with his 3-D ‘reverspective’ paintings that challenge the most logical of grey matter. The sculpted pieces inspired by optics, perspective and illusion have become his signature work since his first foray into reverse perspective in the Sixties with his seminal works aptly named Infinity and Sticking Out Room. He’s since exhibited all over the world building a large following and consistently selling out exhibitions. Born in Brum in 1939, Hughes now works in London with a handful of assistants in his studio, creating large scale works that each take around six months to complete. Highly coveted, Patrick’s pieces typically start at a few thousand pounds with one recently selling for more than £100,000.
NEAR AND FAR
The artist began his exploration into reverse perspective as an art student. He made a 3-D model of a room putting what the brain would ordinarily view as the furthest away i.e. the smallest bit, closest. There was nothing special about it when lying flat on the desk, but when Patrick hung it on a wall, the brain reversed the perspective correcting it if you like. This spawned the idea for the larger pieces although he didn’t fully commit to reverspectives until much later in his career and it wasn’t until the 1990s that Patrick began to make a proper living. In fact he lived in a squat for much of his mid-forties making a bit of money from the gallery, sales from postcards and prints, but nowhere near enough until the reverspectives took off. Apparently Patrick’s inspiration came from his experience of sheltering from German bombs under the stairs. The rather sad, but intriguing story goes, “when the Germans were trying to kill me, I used to hide with my mother under the stairs. The wooden stairs were shaped like my work in reverse. They were stairs that only a fly could climb. You couldn’t walk up these stairs. And that’s what my work is like.”
He adds: “Similarly, at my grandmother’s house where we were hiding, there was a mirror on the wall in a tiny room and another opposite. And so one went to infinity. In a way, all this perspective leads to infinity, so between infinity and a reverse perspective, it’s from my childhood that I’ve been stimulated to make this work.” Featured on BBC1’s The One Show in May, Patrick’s work had Phil Tufnell in a state of awe which is a typical response. Superduperperspective which hangs at BMAG is often surrounded by a gaggle of people and not necessarily art lovers, but visitors to the museum of all ages moving slowly around the piece trying to work it out. It’s difficult to walk away.
The subjects are varied. Landscapes, rooms and books tend to be central themes although for private commissions, Patrick’s led by the client, so anything’s possible. There’s a Beatles inspired work that’s particularly special, a depiction of Venice and a Twin Towers piece that was completed just four days before 9/11 which the artist thought would never be shown because it seemed ghoulish somehow. It was bought by one of the employees of Cantor Fitzgerald a couple of weeks after the attack where hundreds of his colleagues had died. It’s now in a private collection. It’s impossible to appreciate the full impact of Patrick’s work from the images and words on these pages, but if you pop into BMAG in your lunch hour and take a look at Superduperperspective it’ll all become clear. Well, sort of…