Patrick Hughes’s 3D Painting Takes Us on a Magical Journey through Pop Art History

The illusions — and allusions — never end in this mind-boggling portrayal of an all-star Pop art show on a beach.
Her Eyes on the Horizon (2021), by Patrick Hughes
Her Eyes on the Horizon, 2021, by Patrick Hughes, offered by Alon Zakaim Fine Art

From early Pop masterpieces to Banksy-propagated Pop graffiti, British artist Patrick Hughes takes us on a whirlwind journey through the annals of Pop art in his illusionistic 3D painting Her Eyes on the Horizon (2021). He begins with the classics: meandering from Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein to Niki de Saint Phalle, Keith Haring and Damien Hirst to the ongoing notorious appropriationist and defiler Bansky. It’s a wonder-filled trip.

Which doesn’t mean Hughes doesn’t also acknowledge the farther past, turning it inside out with the likes of an 1890 portrait by the French painter Paul Signac. Here, the French Neo-Impressionist depicted, as Hughes tells us convolutedly, “the anarchist writer Felix Feneon, the author of Novels in Three Lines — who did not like the painting! — in front of a circus-like set of motifs.” This tactic, he notes, as he demonstrates his thinking, “is an early example of painting popular art in high art.” There’s no beginning and no end.

Hughes, who had his first show in 1961, continues to elaborate and allow his paintings to perform. Her Eyes on the Horizon is currently on view in “The Newest Perspectives,” Hughes’s solo show at London gallery Alon Zakaim Fine Art through September 8. The artist describes it all this way: “The whole painting, the whole show, including some Solid Hollows I have made, like dice, a Rubik’s Cube, a solid sky, a Louis Vuitton trunk” are active shapes that have “escaped from paintings and taken on a life of their own.”

Some of the miniature artworks found in Her Eyes on the Horizon’s imaginary exhibition set on a surreal seashore are not immediately identifiable as Pop. Or so we think.

Detail of Her Eyes on the Horizon, 2021, by Patrick Hughes
A detail of Her Eyes on the Horizon

Generously demystifying the nature of his painting, Hughes says, “I included Vasarely, whose Op art was designed to be popular, as was Wayne Thiebaud’s lady’s shoes, Keith Haring’s subway . . . and Hirst and Koons with the shark biting on the balloon dog, Niki de Saint Phalle embracing the play of bodies on the beach. Lichtenstein’s wit about the gestural marks of the Abstract Expressionists being seen as a sign that could be constructed in drawn lines and benday dots is one of the various strategies that artists have used to include the quotidian, the cheap, the overlooked to communicate directly to the audience without the need for explication, which I am explaining in Her Eyes on the Horizon.”

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