Known for his illusions (chiefly, “reverspective”, in which objects that appear closest are actually the furthest away in a 3D relief), Patrick Hughes brings a welcome dose of irreverence and charm to the science of optics. Challenging and often disorientating his audience in equal measure, the strains of Pop Art and Surrealism in his work make this London-based artist immediately identifiable. We sat down with Patrick Hughes to learn more about his paintings, and talk about everything from Canaletto to Cork Street.
Flowers Gallery on Cork Street has exhibited your work for decades. How have you seen the street change over the years?
The art scene has changed since I first saw it in the late 1950s. Then there were about twenty commercial galleries around Bond Street and now there must be more than a thousand in London. Cork Street was central, and it is still a very good street.
Has the art scene at large changed over the same period?
I remember there were only a few modern British artists that made a living when I started exhibiting, teaching art in art schools was the main source of income for artists in 1961 – now there are many artists who make a living.
You were famously once the chairman of the Chelsea Arts Club. Is it still as influential as it once was as a meeting place for artists?
The Chelsea Art Club is still an influential place to meet artists – I remember playing Damien Hirst at snooker and losing on the black ball, hearing William Burroughs typing in his room and seeing Robert Mapplethorpe there.
Having lived all over the world, from St Ives to New York, what do you think London offers art lovers that’s special?
I think London art is a success because of the art schools, and the commercial galleries which support the artists. I am not a fan of the R.A. and the Tate which are establishment places and do not discover people or put forward the young and experimental.
London’s been captured in everything from Giovanni Canaletto’s oil to Leon Kossoff’s charcoal and pastels. What do you think is the city’s best medium?
I made a reverspective of St.Pauls Cathedral from north, south, east and west which was a very good medium for the city because reverspective involves the spectator.
Ladbroke Grove and Chelsea were once the parts of London that inspired you to draw playful rainbows. Does the city still inspire you today?
Rainbows are magical moments that come unannounced and can come to anyone anywhere there is sun or rain. In London, in the city, they bring nature and so they seem more precious.
From the Slade to Central Saint Martins, London is home to some of the world’s leading art schools. Do you have a favourite, or one that you think is producing particularly interesting artists?
I have five artists that work for me who studied at Wimbledon School of Art in BA or MA and they are: Justin, Katie, Ian, Irrum and Ioanna, all are very talented indeed. London Guildhall gave me another artist Kelly Davitt who is awfully good too.
Are there any London exhibitions coming up that you’re especially looking forward to attending?
I have just been to see the Wayne Thiebaud exhibition at the White Cube Gallery in Mason’s yard, which was wonderful.
If you were to develop a three-stop itinerary for an art lover in London, which places would you include?
My three stops would be: The Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, The National Gallery for the perspective box by Samuel Van Hoogstraten and the British Library for my own reverspective Paradoxymoron, 1996.
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