Patrick Hughes received no formal training in art; instead, his flash of inspiration came at young age, sheltering from German bombs under his grandparents staircase. Compelled by the inverted form of the familiar treads, the flames were lit for a lifetime of imagistic trickery: Hughes’ work plays upon the illusionistic and the paradoxical, peppered with the surreal and the fantastical, after such artists as Paul Klee, Marcel Duchamp, and Rene Magritte. Treading the knife-edge between profound contemplation and wry humour, Hughes’ visual work is paralleled in his philosophic literature on wordplay - 1984’s More on Oxymoron, for example, for one apt illustration.
In the 1970s and 80s, Hughes began to turn his attentions to rainbows - a now-signature motif across his oeuvre. Yet these colourful curves are expressly anti-romantic in Hughes’ work, sprouting from dustbins or letterboxes, in pictorial play with the real, the everyday, the banal world around us. “A Rainbow,” Hughes writes, “is a transitory event composed of water, air and light. I tried to give it a mass, permanence and personality.” Anchoring the magical in the familiar, Hughes explores and challenges our conception of ephemerality, filtered through the surreal - undertones of which are never far from the surface of his paintings.
Hughes has participated in a number of group and solo exhibitions across the UK, Europe and the USA. His work can be seen in number of public and private collections including the British Council; The Victoria & Albert Museum; and the Print Collection at the Tate Gallery.
Today, Hughes lives in East London, where he continues to work on his ‘Reverspective’ practice, which reverses the perspective of three dimensional objects and structures - proof, over half a century after the inverted staircase encounter, that some things hold onto their ‘permanence and personality’.
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