Shape shifting art turns perspective on its head

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Shape shifting art turns perspective on its head


‘Autobiographies’ (2009) by Patrick Hughes. Provided by Park Ryu Sook Gallery

Patrick Hughes is a contemporary British artist whose mind-boggling “reverspective,” or reverse-perspective sculptural paintings, have been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide.

Hughes’ reverspectives are painted on a three-dimensional background. When viewed from the front, it gives an initial view of a typical painting. The magic begins when the viewer moves slightly and notices how the work seems to come alive through the shifting perspective that seems to follow the moving observer.

Amazement and discord sets in and the viewer systematically begins to glide from side to side, up and down, to and fro, wondering what this is or how it is happening.

In order to understand it, one must experience it for him or herself.

Many question how Hughes came to achieve this technique. Hughes said that while working on his sculpture painting on a table, he lifted it against the wall for a second and, “Eureka, it came alive.”

Hughes was born in 1939 in Birmingham, England. He was greatly influenced by the Surrealist artists of his time, especially by the Belgian artist Rene Magritte.

“I liked his subtle sense of humor and imagination - how he transformed things like a bottle and a carrot to become a carrot bottle,” Hughes said.

This sense of a transient reality inspired him.

Although Magritte created surrealist paintings, Hughes went further by creating the surrealist experience.

“Your eyes are telling you that you are moving to the left, while your feet are telling you that you are moving to the right, as if your body was cut in half,” Hughes said at a press conference last Friday at the Park Hyatt in Seoul.

Like an optical illusion, what is perceived is not in accord with our conditioned view of reality. An illusion may just be a visual trick or lie that deceives. But Pablo Picasso once said: “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth,” meaning that sometimes, we need a thought provoking illusion to awaken and open our minds to new ideas and truths.

For Hughes, that truth is paradox. If paradox were a religion, Hughes is a faithful devotee. Objects that seem to have depth in his work are actually in the foreground, creating a paradoxical perspective. Through his work, he challenges us to question whether what we perceive as reality is not always as it seems.

Hughes himself is a walking trompe l’oeil. He might be 71-years-old but the innocent childlike twinkle in his eyes says otherwise. He is fit as a fiddle, exercises regularly - he recently ran a 10K - and drinks sparkling water while everyone else is sipping champagne.

He even approaches a morbid subject like death with playful humor.

“I am not afraid of death,” Hughes said, quoting Woody Allen. “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

The fact that nothing lasts forever is a constant dilemma that challenged him to create something that is alive.

“An object is nothing without the person’s relationship to it,” Hughes said.

There are no human figures in his work because he designed his work as a stage for us to enter and play in. By combining the duality of the lifeless with the living, his art becomes a breathing, living thing.

*The exhibition ends Sept. 27 at the Park Ryu Sook Gallery. Go to Cheongdam Station, line No. 7, exit 9 and head toward the Cheongdam crossroads.

The gallery is across the street from Gucci on the third floor. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call (02) 549-7575 or visit

For more information about the artist, go to Flowers Galleries in London have been exhibiting Hughes’ artwork for more than 40 years. See for more details.

By Valerie Pergay Contributing writer []
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