The internationally renowned British artist Patrick Hughes creates genuine artistic optical illusions. His “Reverspective Art” comes from paintings that seem to move, or better, follow the movement of the observer. The work is made up of painted and severed cubic pyramids: walking around them you can see the different perspectives depending on the angle from which you look. Looking at them just from head on allows you to enjoy an impressive spectacle and it is only when viewed from the side that you can see the 3-D aspect. Curious to find out more about his magnificent art, we asked Mr. Hughes a few questions.
Where did the idea of creating your first bas-relief paintings come from?
When I started painting in 1959 I had no training as a figurative artist, so I started to paint in a “flat” style. But then one morning in 1963 in a train station I saw the empty tracks disappearing into infinity; I was fascinated by this phenomenon, and I decided to make a sculpture of it. Looking from the front of this sculpture of railway sleepers stretched out on the floor I noticed a particular optical effect, that is, the perspective was reversed compared to what we’re used to: instead of going away from me, it was coming towards me. I then decided to create a room with an artificially inverted perspective and once I’d done it I hung it on the wall. To my surprise it became an illusory space which the observer can enter and enoy his or her own perception.
Tell us how your incredible works can challenge our perception
When you look at a mask from behind it may seem that the face comes out although actually it goes inward. It is a natural phenomenon. My works are similar in that they invert space, but in a different way, because they are not replicas of objects, but perspective representations of what “I see”.
Have you ever studied the effects that your art has on our vision? Can you tell us how our brain reacts when we look at your paintings?
When we move our body is in agreement with our eyes, but when looking at my “reverspective” our eyes tell us one thing, and our feet tell us another. This is unacceptable, so we believe it is the image that is moving. We think that our relationship with the rooms, with the buildings or with the things that are painted has moved. We prefer to believe that these painted wooden pyramids move magically, rather than thinking that our eyes and our bodies are lying to each other, since up to that point both were in perfect harmony.
As for your book “Paradoxymoron: Foolish Wisdom in Words and Pictures” is concerned, can you explain how the paradox can work and coexist with the logic within your art?
My images are oxymorons, they are solid space, they transform transient perception into permanent forms. They become paradoxical when the observer looks at them, they go round and round, turning and twisting in the same way in which the eye and the body are in contradiction with each other. I found a way to turn my devotion to this philosophical paradox into visual art.
Venice is portrayed in many of your works: what is your relationship with the city?
Venice is the perfect city for me to paint, there is such a great number of elegant buildings, all aligned on a similar height to each other in such a way that I can stretch it and crush it inside my conceptual forms, plus those buildings are built on a lagoon where the fluidity of the water helps the ebb and flow that echoes in our perception of the things that we observe within these spaces.