A question of point of view

My-Best Maeght

The internationally renowned British artist Patrick Hughes creates artistic optical illusions. His “reverspective art” comes from pictures that seem to be moving, or rather, they follow the movement of the observer. The work consists of truncated painted cubic cones: walking around them you can see the different perspectives depending on the angle where you are. Looking at them from the front, you can enjoy the magnificent picture they present yet when you look at them from the side you can see them in relief. Curious to find out more about his magnificent art, we asked Mr. Hughes some questions.

How did you come up with the idea of creating your first relief paintings?

When I started painting in 1959 I didn’t have a figurative artist’s training, so I started painting with a “flat” style. But then at a train station one morning in 1963 I saw the empty rails fleeing to infinity and I was so fascinated by that phenomenon I thought of making a sculpture of it. Looking at this sculpture of railway sleepers stretched out on the floor from the front I noticed a particular optical effect, or the perspective was reversed compared to what we are accustomed to: it did not go off into the distance but rather came towards me. So I thought of creating a room in a forced inverted perspective and once created I hung it on the wall. To my great surprise it became an illusory space within which the viewer can immerse himself and put his perception into play.

Tell us how your incredible works can challenge our perception

When you look at a mask from behind, it may seem that the face extrudes even though it actually goes inward. It is a natural phenomenon. My works are similar in that they invert space, but differently, 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 eyes? Can you tell us how our brains react when we look at your paintings?

Generally when you move your body is in agreement with your eyes, yet when you look at my “reverspectives” the eyes tell us one thing and the feet have something else to say. This is intolerable, so we believe it is the image that is moving. We think that our relationship with the rooms, with the buildings or the things that are painted, has moved. We prefer to believe that these painted wooden cones move magically, rather than thinking that our eyes and body are lying to each other, since up to this point both have been in perfect agreement.

In terms of your book “Paradoxymoron: Foolish Wisdom in Words and Pictures” , can you explain how this paradox can work and coexist with logic within your art?

My images are oxymorons, they are solid space, they transform transient perception into permanent forms. And they become paradoxical when the viewer sees them, they move around, they turn and twist in the same way that the eye and the body contradict each other. I have found a way to transform my devotion to the 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 tremendous resource of elegant buildings, all aligned to a similar height so that I can lengthen them and crush them within my conceptual forms. And then those buildings all face onto the lagoon. The fluidity of water helps the ebb and flow that echoes in our perception of the things we observe within these spaces.

Floating Palazzi
Paolozzi Robotski