Fancy an orgy with Pikachu, a slab of sperm-swarmed steak, Pluto and a host of top-hatted ghosts? Artist philjames certainly does. His collection of high-octane, hyperreal paintings depict a world dictated by pop-culture and drenched in porn. It is populated with nuclear-tinted tweens, their skin tattooed with thug insignias, their young bodies slouched slickly against pink penis worms, spreading their thick thighs onto gaping hamburger vaginas. It’s weird and mutated, and would definitely make Walt Disney blush (who numbers amongst philjames’ idols) – although probably not Japanese woodcut artist Hiroshige, whose erotic prints sit alongside. Both combine an obvious libidinous energy with meticulous colouring and linework, overshot with the spirit of ‘hentai’, that brand of sexual perversion that Japan does so well. Hiroshige’s watery scenes of copulation and grinding patternwork still seem fresh, and surprisingly shocking – philjames has suggested that Hiroshige is actually dirtier than him. Like philjames, his neatly ordered objects of titillation reference a world outside the frame; in 19th century Japan it was the ‘floating world’ of courtesans and teahouses, in 21st century Australia it is the consumerist marketplace of cartoon characters, logos and young bodies and minds for sale. While Hiroshige was not a direct influence, you can see traces of philjames’ time as a street artist (in fact, it was one of his ‘paste-ups’ in the alley behind the gallery that got Ray Hughes to approach the artist for an exhibition), his year spent in Tokyo, his childhood soaking up Astro Boy, Kimba and Mad comics. When in Japan he met artist Takashi Murakami (of the Louis Vuitton bag fame), and you wonder what Murakami would think of these oblique homages to his own sexualised, poppy pieces. Thankfully, with his steadfast emphasis on ‘play’ over commercialism or commentary, you can’t see philjames ending up on a designer satchel however.
Until Feb 24, 270 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, 9698 3200 or rayhughesgallery.com