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Nick Stathopoulos At the movies with David Stratton (aka The big sleep)

synthetic polymer paint and oil on canvas

137 x 168 cm

When Nick Stathopoulos told esteemed film reviewer David Stratton about the portrait he planned to paint of him, Stratton was more than a little apprehensive. “I can’t blame him,” says Stathopoulos. “On the surface it seems like I’m poking fun at a very staid and serious critic – and David is nothing if not serious about film.

“Admittedly I shared that apprehension. When I tried to explain that I thought a darkened cinema was the realm of the subconscious, and a film is like a consensual dream, I don’t think he was entirely convinced.

“The difficult thing is capturing a likeness when the subject has their eyes closed and their head tilted away from you, an angle you rarely see. Fortunately David has such a recognisable face from the ABC television show At the movies, which he co-hosts with Margaret Pomeranz.”

Stratton is a film critic for The Australian and a former director of the Sydney Film Festival. A recipient of the Australian Film Institute’s Raymond Longford Award, he has also served as a former president of the International Critics’ Jury for the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. His autobiography, I peed on Fellini, is about to be published – proving he has a sense of humour.

Stathopoulos paints listening to movie soundtracks. This portrait was painted to Phillip Glass’s The illusionist. The figure in the background is Gloria Swanson from Sunset Boulevard. “She says something at the end of the film that perfectly evokes the mood,” says Stathopoulos. “‘There’s nothing else, just us and the cameras and those wonderful people out there in the dark.’”

Born in Sydney in 1959, Stathopoulos did a Bachelor of Arts and Law at Macquarie University. He has worked as a professional artist since graduating in 1983 and is an award-winning illustrator. He was a finalist in the 2003 Archibald Prize.