Patrick Hughes: Fifty Years in Show Business, New Works @ Flowers Gallery

British artist Patrick Hughes started his career aged 21, holding his first exhibition at the Portal Gallery, London, 1961. 50 years on, he is one of the UK’s most popular and best selling artists, credited as ‘godfather’ of the UK surrealists and creator of the Reverspective paintings. These are three-dimensional images, which create a visual effect of constant movement.

Hughes explains that one significant childhood memory is hiding in the cupboard under the stairs with his mother during the German bombing raids on Crewe in 1941. Looking up at the stairs and seeing them in reverse perspective was his first memory of ‘reverseness’, the idea of turning objects and landscapes inside out, a word that the artist has been using ever since.

The exhibited works are large three-dimensional paintings and are constructed with an intriguing technique. They are made of pyramid structures projecting towards the viewer with the tops cut off. The bases of the pyramids are farthest away and set flat against the wall. The lighter rectangles which appear to be in the distance are the flat tops and thus the part of the image physically nearest to the viewer. These paintings when seen from the front initially give the impression of viewing a painted flat surface that shows a perspective view. However as soon as the viewer moves their head or body even slightly the three dimensional surface that supports the perspective view emphasises the depth of the image and accelerates the shifting perspective far more than the brain normally allows. This provides a powerful and often disorienting illusion of depth and movement. The viewer enters a fascinating world and feels the need to physically explore it despite the significant lack of gallery space.

The Venetian waterscapes with their buildings moving unexpectedly as one passes them might initially impress but they are not true representatives of the atmosphere of such mysterious city. The brash colours and familiar trademarks in the mini-museums in which Hughes hangs his greatest hits reflect the commercialism and overstatement that once had overtaken England. All his exhibited works including the Corner Stores 2011 have no human presence. Their vivid colour contradicts their lifeless character while, similarly to Giorgio de Chirico’s Metaphysical Town Square series they all give the impression of environments stuck in time and/or waiting for something to happen – the calm before the storm, possibly echoing the artist’s experience from his childhood.
|Kostas Prapoglou