Patrick Hughes’ works are now being snapped up in an increasingly experimental India, finds Kishore Singh.
Patrick Hughes quotes writers and poets and political leaders with an almost childish sense of glee, not so much to show off his knowledge, or erudition, or learning, but in a sense to offer a view of the world that is theirs which he can safely concur with without bearing the cross of their particular point of view. It fits in with his own image of himself, an instinct he has, he says, to contradict everything.
“In my early work,” he says in his fruity voice over the phone, “I always contradicted everything: If there was a rainbow, I painted it grey. If there was a railway line, I made it physically come to a point within a few feet.”
Hughes, a stranger in India till his “reverspectives” — about which in a moment — were introduced here by the Marigold Fine Art gallery, and is now the gallery’s showstopper at Emporio. Two earlier works on Venice were snapped up by buyers, and Andy Glimpsed has become the latest work by the artist to come to India, even as he hopes for a full-fledged solo some time in the future.
A reverspective — it is Hughes’ own term — is a visual perspective designed to deceive, so a canvas actually moves as you move, creating a disorientating dimension as the perspective shifts and changes and then changes again.
It all began, laughs Hughes a long distance away in England, when he created his first “sticking out room”. It was, he says, his contradictory view of a room that stuck outwards instead of one you could walk into, but as he walked away from it to look back again, the perspective changed, so the part that was closest actually looked the furthest. “It was bloody marvellous,” he says with not a little glee.
Hughes, now 60, was born in Birmingham, but knew this was his big ticket to fame: all that gumph about a picture being worth a thousand words was, in every likelihood, worth a million words in his case with his “perception of perspective”.
Built not unlike a sculpture, his canvases are three-dimensional and involve a visual theatre comprising of doors and windows and houses, of boxes and buildings, of what he calls the “built environment”, a trompe l’oeil if not of the eye then certainly of “the feet”, he says, since you need to move around to experience it, “and of the mind and brain”. They are witty rather than clever, limited in not having people — “the viewers are the people in my paintings”, Hughes says — though he does do “pictures of pictures”.
From the idea to its completion might take from four to eight weeks, and involves making a three-dimensional wooden shell, drawing, then sitting at the easel, “which takes the longest”, he sighs, to the completion, but when it’s complete, Hughes says it has a language that “transcends boundaries, does not have cultural limitations”.
How might he react if a critic were to ask him whether his work was more craft than art? “I’d give him a left,” Hughes chuckles, then says, “Art, like a mansion, has many rooms: I might think I’m in a state room, others might think I’m in a side room.” And if you haven’t guessed what he’s leading up to, you need to check your perspective.