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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 23 September 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2017 19 ART Nick Stathopoulos in front of his portraits of actress and children’s book author Isla Fisher, his latest and also unsuccessful entry to the Archibald Prize. “I saw her on an awards show and thought she would be a breath of fresh air to paint after my recent serious, politically charged portraits.” license to approach potential sitters. I get to meet the most incredible people. But the actual painting process, the sitting, requires an act of trust on the part of the subject. When I told David Stratton that I wanted to paint him asleep in a cinema he said "You're the artist!" and let me do my thing. That's liberating, but there's still a lot of pressure. I try and honour the sitter with the best possible painting I can create. I hate having to contact the sitter when the painting doesn't make the finalists. I feel like I've failed them. Who would you like to paint your own portrait? I've already been painted a few times. I was asked to sit for this year's Archibald, but with all the dramas and time pressures of the documentary, I had to defer the sitting. Honestly, I hate seeing myself. I have immense difficulty watching myself on TV. But a painting is OK, probably because it's distilled through another person's impression of you. What makes you an artist? Oh, I've always been an artist. It's genetic predisposition. I won my first art competition in kindergarten. I used to win all sorts of art competitions when I was growing up. How did you first realise the power of your art? I have a vivid memory of having to draw something for Book Week when I was in kindy. While the other kids were struggling with their crayons, I painted my teacher bending over to take a book off a shelf. I still remember the astonished look on her face. How would you describe your artistic journey so far? It's a continuum. I've always been involved in some creative activity. I'm now more focussed on my fine art. I've had to narrow my diverse artistic practices due to the practical realities of life. But I've been pretty lucky in being able to exercise my passion on a daily basis. If you were not an artist, what would you have become? I have an ancient degree in law, and always harboured an interest in intellectual property, but to be frank, I can't not do what I do now. If I go for long periods without painting, I become physically ill. It's that deeply ingrained into my psyche. I'd love to make more films. I love puppetry and animation. I love illustration. But I only have one life. How do you relate to your Greek background? Hmmm. How can I explain this? It wasn't until I visited Athens for the first time in 2009 that all the pieces fell into place. All the places my grandparents talked about suddenly became real. It's like some distant race memory suddenly kicked in. Have you ever seen those lists of last meals by deathrow prisoners? On my list I'd have my mother's κεφτέδες. But I can't say being Greek has influenced my art. I didn't grow up with any famous Greek artists as role models or anything. But I do listen to Vangelis while I paint! Nick Stathopoulos, right, adding the final touches to the portrait of Deng Adut, left, which won the People’s Choice Award of the Salon des Refuses, but failed to win the Archibald Prize. In the background, the portrait of film critic David Stratton sleeping in a cinema, a previous entry to the coveted portrait contest.
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