The Scottish Museum of Modern Art by Patrick Hughes

  • This painting by Patrick Hughes creates an intriguing and perplexing optical illusion
  • Three-dimensional planes create the illusion that the painting is moving as the viewer walks around
  • Hughes employs precise perspective to create this illusion
  • Inspired by elements of Pop Art and Surrealism, Hughes paintings are completely original
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-5197

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Patrick Hughes
b. 1939 | British

The Scottish Museum of Modern Art

Oil on panel
Signed, titled and dated “The Scottish Museum of Modern Art / Patrick Hughes / 2019”

Part painting, part sculpture and part optical illusion, this work by London artist Patrick Hughes invites the viewer on a visual journey. This 3-dimensional construction breaks free from the wall and appears to shift as one moves in front of it. The artist’s experimentations with perspective and perception involve the viewer in a highly tangible way that is rarely seen in fine art. Driven by ideas of engagement, originality and humor, Hughes is one of the leading figures in contemporary British art.

Hughes’ work often walks an intriguing line between Pop Art and Surrealism. Those influences are felt keenly in this particular work, not least because of the recreation of a René Magritte painting on one panel and a Roy Lichtenstein, while the manipulation of size and perspective itself offers an inherent uncanniness. The composition is set in the Scottish Museum of Modern Art, and all of the paintings included are part of the museum's collection. Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and many more 20th-century artists are represented in the work, identifying Hughes as an enthusiastic student of art history. Additionally, the kinetic quality of the painting cannot be ignored, with many viewers sincerely questioning whether the work itself is moving. Artworks seems to appear and disappear as one walks the length of the panel — a mystery that enhances the work’s surrealist qualities. 

Hughes coined the term reverspective for these types of constructions, which he describes as “perspective in reverse.” He utilizes the traditional idea of one point perspective in which an artist can create the illusion of receding space and dimensionality with converging lines upon a single vanishing point on the horizon line. However, he reverses this concept by bringing these lines forward into space using 3-dimensional planes, but still abides by a strict vanishing point. Hughes says, “When the principles of perspective are reversed, the mind is deceived into believing that a static painting can move of its own accord.”

The panel’s construction is a propriety technique developed by the artist. Starting from large panels of wood, the artist forms trapezoids and triangles that are then glued together to form 3-dimensional shapes that jut out from the flat plane of the wall. Then, 2-dimensional images are manipulated in photoshop and given the proper perspective for their placement within the composition. These images are translated precisely onto the panels in oil paint, creating the illusion. Perfection of line, light and shadow are essential to the final outcome, and, all told, a reverspective painting can take up to three months from start to finish.

Hughes created his first reverse perspective work in 1964 with a life-sized room for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London entitled Sticking-Out Room, thus beginning his long fascination with perspective illusions. He has since then authored several books on themes in relationship with his art, including visual paradoxes and oxymorons, and he holds a doctorate in science from King’s College in London for his work in the psychology of perception. Today, his work resides in the permanent collection of the British Library and the British Academy in London.

Dated 2019

Panel: 22 1/4" high x 59 7/8" wide
Frame: 29 3/4" high x 67" wide
The Scottish Museum of Modern Art by Patrick Hughes
Period: 1919-Present
Origin: England
Type: Paintings
Depth: 1.25
Width: 67.0
Height: 29.75
Canvas Width: 59.875
Canvas Height: 22.25
The Scottish Museum of Modern Art by Patrick Hughes
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