We are delighted to introduce Patrick Hughes to the Hang-Up roster and were honoured to visit his studio space and get to speak to him about his artwork and admirable career. Hughes, explores the nature of perception and perspective in a unique way. The artist devised a unique and intricate style of painting known as ‘reverspective’, an optical illusion on a three-dimensional surface where the parts of the picture which seem farthest away are actually physically the nearest. His signature 3D paintings of galleries, streets and landscapes are designed so that viewers can interact with them to create incredible optical illusions of movement.
Maeght, 2019, edition of 75, hand-painted multiple with archival inkjet
You have everything under one roof from painting studio to an immaculate storage room and workshop. By any stretch this is ultimate artist studio goals. Do you have any advice for people in the arts who are just starting out?
I have had ten different studios over the years, starting in an attic in a back-to-back street in Leeds, by way of a room in the Chelsea Hotel in New York, one with a ladder on to the beach in St. Ives, and an unlicensed squat in Islington where my studio and gallery was the first floor front bedroom, and my bedroom the back room. Hughesually I most like working where I live, keeping office hours, it is easy for me to separate domestic from industrial. For people who are just starting out, you can work anywhere, on your lap or on your laptop. When Lucas Samaras, the box-making artist, was in a bed-sitting room he worked in the cupboard and made wonderful things.
Patrick Hughes in his epic East London studio
From teaching at Goldsmiths in London to publishing several books and not to mention countless exhibition all over the world. What was the first piece you made that you considered as ‘art'?
I started teaching in art schools on the foundation course at Bradford School of Art, then at Leeds College of Art 1964-70, as a senior lecturer in painting and drawing. The first piece of art that I made when I was a student was a hardboard cut-out of a female figure painted in gloss paint. The tension between painting and sculpture is always there, I made a lot of hardboard cut-outs with my jigsaw and coping saw when I started, I could not conceive of a background, it was the image that mattered. I studied and wrote about paradox and oxymoron when I realized that was what I was going on about: I wanted to know what people had done in these spheres so that I did not duplicate their efforts.
From our visit to Patrick Hughes' incredible studio
In a recent interview you explained that “Half the job is mine, half the job is thine” when experiencing your 3D paintings, making the spectator intrinsic to your work - Can you describe your artwork in 3 words?
The poet Paul Valéry said “I write half the poem. The reader writes the other half”. Marcel Duchamp applied this idea to visual art and said that the viewer made up half of the art experience – my work does that. Since I have been making reverspectives I have claimed that I make sculptural paintings which stick out, and the see-ers make the space go back in, and go on to perceive that my art moves as they move. In three words I would describe reverspective as “seeing space solidified”.
Patrick Hughes working on a 'reverspective' piece
We first met you at you at Nancy Fouts’ retrospective show at Hang-Up Gallery Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns at the beginning of this year. There are similarities between you both in eccentricities and humour. Do you recall the first time you met Nancy?
In about 1984 I met Nancy Fouts and Malcolm Fowler at Shirtsleeve Studio, I introduced them to my friends Tony Earnshaw and Les Coleman, both of whom they then showed in their gallery in Soho. All of us were working with wit and humour, we were firm friends, and then they all died except me. One time all of us went to visit the surrealist Belgian artist Marcel Marien, a close friend of Magritte, whose work is similar to Nancy’s. We were all interested in the imagination, the new, the un-thought of, the extra-ordinary, the ridiculous, the poetry of the everyday.
Patrick Hughes at the opening night of 'Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns' at Hang-Up Gallery
You are heavily influenced by surrealist artist Magritte but who has been the most inspiring person you have met and why?
I did not meet Magritte, I wish I had, I had never left this country by the time he died in 1967. He is my favourite artist, I love his imagination and thought. His style of painting is ordinary, sometimes mediocre, but his rhetoric and wit and subversion and, at best, paradox, is exemplary. I was thrilled to meet one hero of mine, N.F. Simpson, the author of the play One-Way Pendulum, which I think is marvellous. Perhaps the most inspiring artists I have met are Robin Page whom I taught with, Ivor Cutler, and the delightful Tony Earnshaw, and the wonderful Nancy Fouts.
And a bonus question... With 2020 effectively cancelled, what do you have planned in 2021?
In 2021 I am hoping to show in New York with Adelson Galleries, in London with Alon Zakaim, throughout Europe with Bel-Air Fine Art, with Galerie Boisserée in Cologne and Scott Richards in San Francisco and of course with Hang-Up Gallery. Happily my work works all over the world, with its appeal to the senses of sight and proprioception.
Banksee, 2019, Artist Proof of 10, hand painted multiple with archival inkjet
A big thank you to Patrick for taking the time to answer our questions and take us through his studio. You can click here to view available originals and editions by the artist.
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