Foreground is background, background is foreground and static images appear to shift when the viewer moves in front of them in British painter Patrick Hughes’ explorations of perspective and perception.
“Patrick Hughes: Opperspective” at Scott Richards Contemporary Art contains seven wall reliefs – trippy, surreal oil paintings on connected panels that extend forward from the wall at different angles. Art history, pop art, Venice and Peggy Guggenheim’s art collection in that Italian city inspired these painting-sculpture fusions.
Hughes’ reverse-perspective method dates back to 1964, when he created the “reverspective,” an illusion on a three-dimensional surface in which the parts of the picture that appear farthest away are actually closest to the viewer.
By reversing the apparent perspective and revealing numerous points of view, Hughes also creates an illusion of motion. When viewed straight on, his works appear to be two-dimensional stationary paintings. But as the viewer moves in front of these constructions, the pictures look as if they are shifting or swaying; the effect reveals or conceals different facets of the picture.
These factors are at work in the current exhibition, which, despite its trim size, involves serious viewer engagement.
In “Populart” (26.25 by 57.25 by 8 inches), Hughes salutes pop art and plays with viewer perception with an interior landscape of zig-zaggy walls featuring familiar images by Warhol, Lichtenstein and other giants of the movement. A wedge-shaped column of Brillo boxes corresponds with the theme and the design. Book-lined shelves further enliven the colorful picture. The window behind a pair of walls is, on closer look, actually in front of them.
In “Venetian Vision” (29 by 67 by 8 inches), buildings shaped like slices of cake or approaching ships sit surrealistically on blue waters. Closely observed, the urban scapes in the rectangular spaces at the rear of the buildings turn out to be painted in front of the buildings, and if viewers move their bodies side to side, the structures appear to swing back and forth.
Hughes – whose influences include Paul Klee, Rene Magritte, Giorgio de Chirico and Eugene Ionesco – has exhibited in London, Paris, New York City, Toronto, Seoul, Los Angeles and Chicago. His works also are in collections at the British Library and the Tate gallery in London.
IF YOU GO
Patrick Hughes: Opperspective
Where: Scott Richards Contemporary Art, 251 Post St., Suite 425, S.F.
When: Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes June 27
Contact: (415) 788-5588, www.srcart.com
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