Patrick Hughes is an artist whose first solo show was back in 1961 at the Portal Gallery in London, England. It went down in history as the first one-man show by a Pop Artist, however they were not known by that term at that point. A few years after this, Patrick Hughes produced two seminal reverse perspective works entitled Infinity and Sticking-out Room. It was in the 1970s that Patrick Hughes’ name became synonymous with rainbow paintings; these paintings would become extremely popular as prints and as postcards. Later on, in the 1980s, Patrick Hughes went back to exploiting the difference between perspective and reverspective and solidifying space. For the last 25 years, Patrick has continued to be an in demand artist with his work being exhibited around the world and featured in numerous public collections. Please enjoy my interview, with the wonderfully talented artist, Patrick Hughes…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I’ll answer ‘artist’. There was a cheap fashion to say ‘painter’ to which I never subscribed. It is not the paint that makes the painting, it is the artist. One artist, when asked what he mixed his paints with, replied ‘imagination.’
I am reading The Early Years by Reiner Stach, the first volume of three, on the life of Franz Kafka. It is as dull as Kafka is exciting. The family background he transcended simply shows his transcendence.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I can remember being reprimanded “You have always got your head in a book” by my silly mother. I read, though I did not understand French, the label on the HP sauce bottle: “un melange de haute qualite de fruits orientaux, d’epices, et de vinaigre du malt pur”.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, I interviewed her once, on the phone. I think it is a good book about adolescence and love and self and creativity.
Did you demonstrate an affinity with art as a child?
Not particularly. I have two watercolours painted when I was ten, they are not special. I began to be interested in the theory of art, Picasso and so on, when I was about fifteen.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
The worst and best job I ever had was when I was an art lecturer in art schools in my twenties. It was the worst because one is beset by hundreds of foolish and opinionated adolescents, and the current and trivial art fashions, at the time they were abstraction, self-expression, chance. On the other hand I met interesting artists who taught and studied in the art schools. The worst thing about that seductive job is that it interfered with me doing my own work, it once led me to describe myself as an art teacher, at which point I resigned.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring artist?
Learn everything you can about art in the last hundred and fifty years; and pay no attention to current fashions in public galleries and art magazines but follow your own nose.
Who would you say are the three artists that continue to inspire you?
Rene Magritte, for his imagination and bloody-mindedness; Paul Klee for his analysis and imagination; MC Escher, for his thoroughness and intelligence.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Yes I read for a couple of hours minimum every day, I read in bed before sleep, I read the TLS, LRB, NYRB, New Yorker, The Times, The Spectator, I am a compulsive reader, I do not listen to music or just sit, I read.
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
I do not have a career path, I have studied paradoxes and oxymorons in art and literature because I realised that is what I was making: so I authored my book Paradoxymoron. True artists do not follow a path, they make a path, although looking back one can see where that path began and how it diverged from other paths.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
I have read The Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka and Josephine the Mouse Singer many times. These stories are parabolic parables of the artist’s job, eccentric but perfect circles around creativity, making fun of his own ambition.
The book I’ve recommended most is Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household.
Do you think there is a relationship between books and art?
I first saw the artists I love reproduced in books, small and shiny, often in black and white, I have never thought it was essential to see “the real thing”, what is the real thing? The exception is my own art, which has to be seen to be disbelieved.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
I used to like novels most of all, but when I was about fifty I no longer believed them, I could see the novelist’s hands as he pulled the strings to manipulate his puppets. I was sorry to lose the willing suspension of disbelief.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
A world without books would be a world without travel to other minds, other invented places, to meet other experiences that are limited by the real world and our own people.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Oh yes I always read everything by an author whom I love. I have read the whole catalogue of many authors; Ivor Cutler, Hugo Williams, Christian Morgenstern, Ramon Gomez de la Serna, lots of others. I always read everything written today by David Sedaris and Nicholson Baker.
I think the book humanity needs right now is The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen by Laurence Sterne.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I am studying paradox and perception and perspective.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?