An artwork entitled “Popsee” has been donated to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) by British artist Patrick Hughes in honour of Emeritus Professor of Physiology Sir Colin Blakemore FRS and their shared interest in visual perception.
Patrick Hughes was born in Birmingham, England in October 1939. His first exhibition was in 1961 and his first reverspective, Sticking-out Room, was made in 1964. Hughes’ original painted reliefs are concerned with optical and visual illusions, the science of perception and the nature of artistic representation. He invented an optical illusion called “reverspective,” a neologism for reverse perspective. Hughes begins by constructing pyramid- or wedge-shaped blocks out of wood, which he combines into ridged panoramas. He then paints scenes into the blocks, depicting interior spaces—including museum galleries hung with iconic artworks—as well as landscapes and city views. The protruding parts of the works appear to recede, and the receding parts appear to protrude. As viewers walk by the pieces, the compositions seem to move.
Hughes’ “Popsee” is an awe inspiring 3D Multiple, hand painted, pop culture inspired, three dimensional piece. It incorporates work by Warhol, Vasarely, Thiebaud, Hughes, Lichtenstein, Koons, Banksy, Haring, and finally Signac’s iconic painting of Félix Fénéon, the art dealer, anarchist activist and critic who coined the term Neo-Impressionism to describe the works of Signac and Seurat in the late 1890s. Of particular note to the neuroscience community is a book within the picture featuring Professor Blakemore’s name.
Sir Colin Blakemore is a world-renowned neuroscientist who has significantly contributed to our understanding of vision, and how the brain develops and adapts. He has been influential in demonstrating ‘neural plasticity’ — how brain cells reorganise themselves in response to the environment after birth and even in adulthood. Professor Blakemore joined the Department in October 1979 at the age of 35 years as the youngest Waynflete Chair of Physiology and a Professorial Fellowship at Magdalen College, positions he held until July 2007. During this time, he directed the McDonnell-Pew Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Oxford Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience. From 2007-12, he was Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and Supernumerary Fellow at Magdalen. Professor Blakemore, who remains Emeritus Professor at DPAG, is also very well known for his passionate belief in the importance of public engagement with research. He has held several influential positions, including serving as Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council from 2003-07, and received a knighthood in 2014 for services to scientific research, policy and outreach.
On Tuesday 2 November 2021, an unveiling ceremony presented by the artist will take place, followed by a drinks reception, in the Sherrington Building Foyer.