How We Met: Derren Brown & Patrick Hughes
'He is everything I would dream of being at that age'
Patrick Hughes, 72
A visual artist, Hughes is best known for his "reverspectives", optical illusions which play with a viewer's perspective. He lives in east London with his wife.
Derren seems beguiling; he has that quality where people will want to do things for him. But once you meet him in person you realise he's also a genuinely nice person – unlike me, who will appear to be a nice person, while deep down I'm squirmy, wormy and horrible.
We met through a magician, Paul Kieve, who knew my work and thought Derren might like it. So he took Derren to an exhibition of mine in London about five years ago – I didn't know then he was also an artist – and he ending up buying one of my "Vanishing Venice" paintings.
Our art is one thing that really connects us. I've seen Derren develop from a caricaturist to a painter approaching photorealism. Artists often swap work with each other, so I've done a 3D cast of his head – but inverted – and he painted a portrait of me. It has a tremendous twinkle in the eye and a grin. But what's most disconcerting is that I seem to look more and more like it as the years go by.
I love his TV shows – my mind gets boggled by them. My favourite was The System, where he told a group of six people he could predict which horse would win in a series of races – but they didn't realise they were part of a massive group experiment. I loved the logic of it.
When he's on stage he's particularly seductive. The last show I went to, a woman dressed up in disco gear next to me was chosen by Derren to come up on stage and he had to guess what she did for a living. He said, "I know what you do," and I thought, "I can't imagine what she must do." Then he said to her, "You're a bureaucrat in the police department." It was the last thing I would have said. So how does he do it? I suspect he goes through all the people who've brought tickets and Googles them. It's a great cheat. Though I think he has the capacity to use different techniques; when you go backstage it's a bit of a surprise to see he has a whole team back there.
I have been with magicians who can't stop doing tricks – such as pulling eggs from their ears – and it actually gets very wearing. But there's no trickery involved when you spend time with Derren.
Derren Brown, 41
Since his first TV outing "Mind Control", in 2000, the psychological illusionist has performed countless live shows and more than 20 TV specials, including the controversial "Russian Roulette". He is also an accomplished painter. He lives in London with his partner.
Patrick has a long association with the magic community; some of his work is hanging at the offices of the Magic Circle. We were introduced through a mutual friend and magician, Paul Kieve, who invited me to an exhibition of Patrick's Venice collection five years ago.
His reverspective paintings [three-dimensional paintings that shift perspective depending on where you are standing] are his trademark. I love how, as you walk around the room, the buildings in the painting seem to follow you, while your brain tells you it's a flat object. It's a great mind trick which had immediate appeal for me.
So I brought one of the Venice pieces and made contact with him, and it turned out that he was a huge magic fan.
He's a tall, handsome man who dresses immaculately. He particularly likes to wear this pinstripe linen suit with trainers, which you can only get away with if you are very young – or very old.
If you get invited round to his place you discover this incredibly eccentric environment. In particular, he's got this reverse mirror in his apartment so that when you look into it you see what other people see, as it reflips the image, which is very disconcerting, but fascinating.
We speak about painting all the time – we tend not to talk about my other work. I think it's remarkable that there's nothing self-indulgent about his work. It works in the mind of the viewer more than art normally does, and in that way it's similar to a magic trick. One thing that has stuck with me is a piece of advice he gave me: "You can paint anything." It sounds obvious, but at the time I was painting portraits from photos and feeling limited by the source material. So I started taking photos myself and that advice has become something of a motto.
He is everything I would dream of being at that age. He is like a big child and it's because he's such an open person that he attracts such a wide variety of people around him. I had dinner with him once alongside an eccentric Russian painter, poets and [actor] Steven Berkoff.
When I'm with people who are successful, I become intimidated into not saying anything. Patrick, though, exudes confidence with anyone. I wish I had his level of self-assurance.
Patrick Hughes hosts three open days at his studio on 5 May, 2 June and 7 July. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details
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