Return to Articles


by Nancy Kay Turner

(Flowers West Gallery, Santa Monica) Patrick Hughes is a self-taught artist who creates "impossible objects" which are painted wall reliefs. Playing with perspective, optical illusions, and figure-ground relationships that pay homage to and build on the work of M.C. Escher, Rene Magritte and Richard Artschwagger, Hughes' "stick-out" paintings form a tromp l’oeil bridge between painting which is static and two-dimen-sional, and sculpture which is not.

Whimsical, visually engaging, surprisingly familiar, these unusual hybrids are playful ruminations on the history of art, perspective and Surrealism. Hip and goofy, these images confound your senses, and trick us. As we move, they change, thereby engaging the viewer with the work and forcing you into a more active participation with it.

In 1998, Hughes created two seemingly identical works, both entitled Hughes Henge, clearly a humorous reference to Stonehenge. Hughes created two versions--one image is a "sticking-out " painting and one is a completely flat, two-dimensional painting. Reproduced in a photograph it is almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.

"Hughes Henge," oil on board construction,
30 3/4 x 69 1/4 x 9 3/4", 1998.


"Pinocchio," oil on board,
24 1/2 x 64 1/2 x 11", 1999.

"The History of Architecture," oil on board
construction, 74.5 x 231 x 28.5 cm, 1998.

"Pleasure Island," oil on board
construction, 33 x 74 x 10", 1999.

Each features the ubiquitious Surrealist horizon which always implies deep space, against which is set a series of massive posts with lintel tops that form a stepped accordion shape instead of the original circular one. Hughes' hallmark shape is based on the way stairs look when one is under a staircase looking up. As a youngster, during the bombing blitz of London, Hughes was hidden underneath a stairwell, and there he began pondering what became his obsession with perverse or backwards perspective.

Hughes builds his forms from board which is taped together, gessoed and then sanded until it becomes a pristine minimalistic wall relief which mimics the shape of space. Next he composes images of buildings, books, doorways, boxes, gallery walls--almost any rectilinear form will do. The inherent repetition of the structure sets the tone for the paintings. Perverspective is the name that Hughes has given to this body of work, which is intended to warp our perceptions. ‘Perverse’ has a dual definition as ". . .a figure or an image in which the right and left directions of the original are reversed. . . and the image of anything seen in a plane mirror" and, in its more common usage, in which to pervert is to subvert or turn about.

Among his most recent works is Pinocchio, which depicts a retrospective exhibition of Pop icon Andy Warhol's work including his Double Portrait of Elvis, a soup can, self-portrait, an early Mickey Mouse image, and some paintings from the cow and flower series. This "Art About Art" painting is a seemingly innocuous homage, but Hughes adds interest with his characteristic visual chicanery. However, Hughes' highly detailed and painstakingly painted wall reliefs, though entertaining, run the risk of being a "one-trick pony" as the artist continually reworks the same themes and plays with the same concepts.