Patrick Hughes (artist)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Patrick Hughes (born 20 October 1939) is British artist working in London. He is the creator of "reverspective", an optical illusion on a 3-dimensional surface where the parts of the picture which seem furthest away are actually physically the nearest.



Patrick Hughes was born in Birmingham, went to school in Hull and enrolled at the James Graham Day College in Leeds in 1959. Later he taught at the Leeds College of Art before becoming an independent artist. He has three sons by his first wife, Rennie Paterson, and was later married to the author Molly Parkin. Hughes lives above his studio near Old Street, London, with his wife, the historian and biographer Di Atkinson.

He has been represented by Angela Flowers, now Flowers East, gallery for more than forty years.


Hughes' early works were often playful, putting things back to front or squashing them flat, like Clown (1963) and Liquorice Allsorts (1960), setting words against images, like One Two (1962), or against themselves, like Tick Cross (1962). He explored visual oxymorons and paradoxes. His fascination with the illusion of perspective began with works like Infinity (1963), Three Doors (1964) and The Space Ruler (1965).

In the 1970s Hughes hung his investigations of perception and illusion on the motif of the rainbow in a series of prints and paintings, such as Pile of Rainbows (1973), Prison Rainbow (1973) and Leaning on a Landscape (1979). Later prints like Leaf Art (1975) and paintings like Realistic Paint (1977) expressed similar interests with colour.

His first "reverse perspective" or "reverspective" was Sticking Out Room (1964), which was a life-size room for the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 1970. He returned to explore the possibilities of reverspective in 1990 with Up the Line and Down the Road (1991) <ref name=slyce/> Since then, his reverspectives have been shown in London, New York, Santa Monica, Seoul, Chicago, Munich and Toronto.

He explains reverspective:

"Reverspectives are three-dimensional paintings that when viewed 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 even slightly the three dimensional surface that supports the perspective view accentuates the depth of the image and accelerates the shifting perspective far more than the brain normally allows. This provides a powerful and often disorienting impression of depth and movement. The illusion is made possible by painting the view in reverse to the relief of the surface, that is, the bits that stick furthest out from the painting are painted with the most distant part of the scene."

The picture surface of Vanishing Venice (above) is 3-dimensional, made of two pyramids protruding towards the viewer with the tops cut off: the bases of the pyramids are furthest away (flat against the wall). The two lighter rectangles which appear to be in the distance at the end of the buildings are the flat tops and thus the part of the image physically nearest to the viewer (see diagram left).

Hughes' reverspective is the subject of scientific papers on the psychology of perception, by Nicholas Wade<ref>Wade, Nicholas. "Fooling the eyes: trompe l'oeil and reverse perspective", Perception, 1999, Volume 28, pp. 1115-1119.</ref> and Thomas Papathomas of Rutgers University's Laboratory of Vision Research.<ref>Papathomas, Thomas V. "Experiments on the role of painted cues in Hughes’s reverspectives", Perception, Volume 31, pp. 521-530, 2002.</ref> <ref>Papathomas Thomas V & Bono Lisa. “Experiments with a hollow mask and a reverspective: Top-down influences in the inversion effect for 3-D stimuli,” Perception, 33, 1129-1138, 2004.</ref> <ref> Papathomas Thomas V. “Art pieces that ‘move’ in our minds – An explanation of illusory motion based on depth reversal,” Spatial Vision, 21, 79-95, 2007. </ref>


Hughes has written three books investigating themes that parallel his art, Vicious, Circles and Infinity: An Panoply of Paradoxes, with George Brecht (N.Y. Doubleday, 1975); Upon the Pun: Dual Meaning in Words and Pictures, with Paul Hammond (London, W.H. Allen, 1978); and More on Oxymoron (Jonathan Cape, Ltd. 1984). He has written for The Observer, the The Guardian, the ICA Magazine, among others on art, artists and interesting lives. A collection of writings, Left to write will be published by Momentum in 2008. John Slyce's biography, Patrick Hughes: reverspective, was published in 2005.


Hughes was influenced by the surrealistic Lilliput (magazine), comics and the absurdist theatre of Ionesco and N. F. Simpson, as well as the work of Paul Klee and Surrealists, particularly Rene Magritte, Giorgio de Chirico and Marcel Marien. The Leeds-based surrealist Anthony Earnshaw was a friend and inspiration.


  • B. Smith, P. Hughes, Behind the Rainbow: Patrick Hughes, Prints 1964-83 Paradox Publishing Ltd, 1983
  • John Slyce, Reverspective Momentum, London, 2005

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Patrick Hughes (artist)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools