My Favourite Painting: Jeremy Swift

Jeremy Swift, the actor made famous by Ted Lasso and Downton Abbey, chooses a striking modern work by Patrick Hughes.

Jeremy Swift on Poppish by Patrick Hughes

‘A couple of years ago, I was walking through Venice with my wife, when I spotted an art gallery and instantly shouted out “It’s that guy, the 3D man!” It jumps out at you that much. At that time, the gallery was exclusively exhibiting Patrick Hughes’s work. We ended up buying an artist’s proof of Poppish, which shows a gallery of some of his favourite artists, including Damien Hirst and David Hockney. ‘

For the past few decades, his work has almost always centred on themes such as this or what he’s dubbed “reverspectives”. He hand-paints with archival inkjet onto a three-dimensional surface. Usually, what he paints onto the most prominent part of the surface is, in fact, the bit that looks furthest away in the final work. It’s a brilliant visual deceit. If you sway from side to side when looking at it, the whole picture moves.’

Jeremy Swift is an actor, who recently won a Primetime Emmy Award for his performance in Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso. He also starred in Downton Abbey and The Durrells.

John McEwen on Patrick Hughes

As child in Birmingham, Patrick Hughes and his mother hid under the stairs during air-raids. Once, sheltering at his grandmother’s, they found themselves in a room with facing mirrors. The reverse perspective of one, the infinity of the other, sowed the seeds of his pictorial invention, the ‘reverspective’ — painted reliefs in which the prominences are painted to appear farthest away. ‘My saw, my glue, sticks them out, but your eyes and your minds send them back.’

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Mr Hughes entered James Graham Day College, Leeds, intending to become an English teacher. He was asked who his favourite writers were. Among them were Kafka, Ionesco and Lawrence Sterne. ‘You should be in the art department,’ he was told, so he became an artist. Paradoxical writers turned him into a ‘paradoxical’ painter.

His first show was in 1961, but it was not until he abandoned conventional canvas and made his reverspectives in the 1990s that his work entered the museums. An artist he admires as the acme of ‘paradoxical art’ is René Magritte. The reverspective is Mr Hughes’s distinct and wittily paradoxical addition to the ancient art of perspective. Of Poppish, he writes: ‘Thiebaud’s cakes are tasty, the Warhol wallpaper is daft, Lichtenstein is condescending, Haring is a modern moralist, Banksy is having a laugh, Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nana sculpture is playful. My imaginary exhibition turns and dances to your own tune.’

Mr Hughes has been married three times: to Rennie Paterson, with whom he has three children, Molly Parkin and his present wife, Diane Atkinson, an historian. He lives in London. ‘The Perspective Paradox’ is at the Hang-Up Gallery, Regent’s Canal, London N1, until December 16.