Patrick Hughes has achieved recognition around the world for his lifelong exploration of perspective and visual paradox, through which he has engaged in a historical dialogue with the masters of the Renaissance and Surrealism, and has been aligned with scientific discoveries in the field of three-dimensional visual perception. In an upcoming exhibition at Flowers Gallery New York, Hughes presents new sculptural paintings, which explore an increasingly complex spatial and pictorial imagery.
Ever since the creation of his first ‘reverse perspective’, the Sticking Out Room, more than fifty years ago, Hughes has continued to confound viewers with his three-dimensional paintings, which appear to move in conjunction with the lateral movements of the viewer. The foundations for this discovery were set in 1963, when he made a sculpture of railway lines in perspective coming to an abrupt vanishing point. Looking at the piece from the ‘wrong’ end gave Hughes the idea to elaborate on this idea by making a room in reverse perspective, imagining the vanishing points at the position from which the work would be viewed.
The genesis for Hughes’ fascination with the concept of spatial reversal and visual paradox can, however, also be traced to his childhood during the Second World War. At his family home in the English town of Crewe, the safest place to hide from the German bombs was in the cupboard under the stairs, where Hughes spent many hours looking up at the stairs from underneath, the wrong way around.
The staircase has emerged as an important pictorial element within recent works such as Steps to the Stars, a highly complex three-ended shape, where the form of the central steps and risers are constructed from multiple planes in reverse perspective, and painted using conventional perspectival techniques. Lining the walls of each staircase are rows of paintings, pointing toward the symbolic, conceptual and narrative value of the staircase throughout the history of art.
Over the past fifty years, Hughes has developed myriad shapes and visual motifs, creating mazes, arcades, libraries, galleries, boxes, cameras, doors, and images of the city of Venice. The painting Reverspective in Perspective, seen in this exhibition, portrays a repeated cube-like construction of book-lined walls within a diminishing forced-perspective trapezoid shape. Viewed from left to right, the image is perceived as fluctuating between two conflicting vanishing points, drawing attention to the complex nature of ‘what we see’.