George Raftopoulos’ paintings was definitely one the best moments of Art Athina 2017.
He was born in Sydney from Greek parents and this was the first time he exhibited his work in Athens. The Melbourne-based Anna Pappas Gallery presented his work.
George Raftopoulos discusses his work and participation in Art Athina 2017 with Ex_posure.
E.Z. How would you define your artistic identity?
Rather investigative, curious, ferocious and always pushing boundaries both conceptually and creatively. I never sit still and believe one must be always active and constantly pushing ones self beyond the ‘safety net’.
Ε.Z. You have chosen painting, why?
Actually print making was my thing and found it limited as I couldn’t carry a printing press in my back pocket. I found as time has progressed that painting affords me the immediacy of mark making however the texture of the canvas takes endless hours and patience… this is indeed the getting of wisdom and the mistress of ‘painting’ has taught me this over time.
E.Z. Tell us about the stories you narrate and the feelings you express through your work.
Essentially the stories are there own… they are endlessly personal and usually formulate themselves as I create the works… they tend to lull the viewer within the confines of the canvas. I never begin a work with a predisposed notion or thought pattern pertaining to story not myth; the sheer fact of painting as an energy itself lends to that of the historical framework of the painting. It is my job to take the viewer on a journey and to immerse them within it, for the works to scream with both joy and victory. Akin to that of an ’Odyssey’ a painterly journey which reflects life’s demanding questions. Here the works act as a mirror to the viewer where there emotional participation is demanded with every fibre and sinew of mark making.
E.Z. What are your main sources of inspiration?
Music is a huge source, mainly experimental music. Amazing musical compositions by Greek NZ composer John Psathas and Iannis Xenakis. Here the mind travels freely weaving into spaces of the mind. Travel is a huge influence as I mentally store conversations and imagery as visual fodder at a later date.
E.Z. Could you talk to us about the work you have recently presented at Art Athina with Anna Pappas Gallery?
It was such an honor to be exhibited in Athens as it has been on my list to do, in a remarkable sense it heralds a return to my forefathers a metaphorical ‘nod’ to my heritage. Growing up in Australia it has always amazed me how my work would be perceived by a Greek audience. The work presented dealt with essential themes of longing and identity. Here the painting “Goddess bride’ stood tall and defiant like a 21st c. version of the ‘Παναγια’ a modern day icon one which protects us all; she is rendered as an oversized female form beaming out of the dark black background illuminated with electric blue spray paint for shoes, this signifying her presence in the current day.
The bank of smaller works that where presented where almost peeking at pages in my mental diary, remarking on mundane days and experiences and translating those into small tablets of personal history.
The larger ‘Democracy of league’ is a painting that references Titian’s figures and silhouettes in order to catapult Titian into the 21st century; here the figures are morphed into humanoids floating upon citrus yellow and lurid green grass as a metaphor for hope and prosperity and also signifies my preoccupation with breaking down historical norms and how I like to re interpret them and play with people’s perceptions of things past.
E.Z. How important is it for you to show your work in a Greek audience?
It’s is important as I mentioned to give back to the motherland and to also highlight the fact that the greater Greek diaspora is extremely connected to it. Although we are on the other side of the world it is important to demonstrate the importance of ones cultural lineage and how one utilises that automation of lineage and re-interprets this history into a Greek-Australian metaphor. Some works are extremely ‘naughty with tongue in cheek’ references as many works play on the notion of identity and it’s reinvention of it… So I pay homage to the homeland and its importance bestowed upon me by default however I ultimately pay it respect as nucleus for creativity.
E.Z. What is the role that the titles of your works play?
The titles are the entry point into the context of the works; they usually arrive as a thought provoking memory in my mind once the work is complete. Thus the narrative of the work begins and the allegory is formed within the confines of the canvas. They also are extremely cheeky and often resemble a direct link to my thinking at the time wether I am commenting on social or personal notions.
George Raftopoulos, https://www.georgeraftopoulos.com