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Do you remember your childhood toys? Wasn'T it bliss to play with them alone or with your friends and slip away into a special, ageless world of fantasy?

Sydney artist and Archibald Prize finalist Nick Stathopoulos not only remembers his toys - he's still got boxes and boxes of them. The toys are all in pristine condition and many are still in their original packaging. Stathopoulos still adores his toys. What's more, he finds them so evocative and nostalgic that he has used them as the foundation for his exhibition.

Stathopoulos was born in 1959 and grew up on a diet of 1960s television cartoons and action heroes. His interior world abounded with fictional characters like Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds, Astro Boy and a space-age robot called Gigantor ("Bigger than Big, Taller than Tall!") which was remote-controlled by a little boy called Jimmy Sparks.

Like millions of other kids, Stathopoulos eagerly collected merchandise from his favourite TV shows. He still cherishes his Speed Racer with pop-up periscope, Captain Scarlet's Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, his Astro Boy figurines and Lady Penelope's pink Rolls Royce.

His Corgi toy of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine ("with revolving periscopes and two automatically opening hatches revealing figures of The Beatles") is a special favourite.

Stathopoulos is still collecting. His plastic model of The Flintstones at the Drive-In is a newish purchase, and he is over the moon about his brand new Barbie doll, fashioned after actress Tippi Hedren in the Hitchcock classic, The Birds. Gorgeous and fetishistic in her black cardboard showcase, and complete with chic accessories, Tippi Barbie is being attacked by huge plastic birds.

The doll is based on the climactic scene in The Birds, the shooting of which was cruelly prolonged by Hitchcock in retaliation for Hedren's spurning of his sexual advances. After the trauma of the scene's production, during which some of the pecking, gouging birds were actually sewn to her clothing, Hedren suffered a real-life breakdown.

Stathopoulos' exhibition is called Toy Porn, but there is nothing sexually explicit here.

Rather, the title refers to the obsessive, seductive thrill of collecting and the dichotomy implicit in the depiction of toys - the innocent and the sinister rolled into one, the sad clown, the reflection on childhood from an ever-increasing distance in time.

In Stathopoulos' canvases, the artist paints his toys in all their die-cast and plasticised resplendence. His technique is hyper-real, tricking many people into assuming he has used an airbrush.

As a child, Stathopoulos would be constantly sitting in front of the television set, drawing. In this exhibition, his fascination with the companions to his childhood imaginings has reached full circle. In the painting which is the centrepiece of the exhibition, Stathopoulos has painted himself as Jimmy Sparks in the outstretched hand of his old hero, Gigantor. Here, though, a rusting Gigantor is half-buried in sand and the sun is setting behind him. Perhaps, in this exhibition, Stathopoulos is saying a kind of goodbye to his toys.

Elizabeth Fortescue

To download the exhibition invitation simply click here.

For further information, please email ng@ngart.com.au

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