George Raftopoulos’s paintings are immediate, responsive, intuitive. He is a story-teller. In the manner of Aesop his paintings are modern visual fables and moral lessons; observations on man’s inhumanity to man and the human condition and more prosaically the vicissitudes of the artist, along with musings on politics, philosophy and life.
The migrant experience pervades. George Raftopoulos mines the Greek myths and psyche of his heritage and his experience growing up Greek in a small Australian country town. His DNA is Greek, His nurture is Australian. His way of working is cathartic. It’s about George…his story, his history, his search for identity.
His style is narrative. His paintings are unstructured in the way of a dialogue and develop like a visual ‘yarn’ as in Plato and his mates. George is an avid sharer on social media – and many paintings develop much in the way of so many random posts on a facebook wall or in the Twitter-sphere.
A painting is not pre-sketched or planned. He works ‘alla prima’. Like a story, it evolves as it goes along. His art isn’t about reaching conclusions, but posing questions and reflecting the world we live in.
The Raft of the Medusa was painted in response to a news story of yet another landing of ‘boat people’ on Mediterranean shores. Men in boats are a recurring motif. Allusions to migration stories and tragedies, both contemporary and ancient, like the journey and travails of Odysseus are constants in his paintings. The blue of the sea and the sky figures frequently in his palette. Both the Mediterranean and the Pacific oceans flow in his canvases literally and metaphorically.
Many of his paintings have a fresco-like surface dryness, built up with layers like a palimpsest, or some ancient over-written manuscript with cryptic glyph notations scraffitied into the surface. He writes in a text he calls ‘Greenglish,’ a conflation of Greek and English script; yet another aspect of his acculturation played out on his canvases
A series of personae, rendered as small independent works are a constant element of his studio practice. Il Capitan, The JUGGLER, MAPOLEAN, are all players in George Raftopoulos’s irreverent explorations of the politics of identity and how it is constructed.
George Raftopoulos positions himself as part of an art-historical lineage. His works are a form of modern day myth- making, fables of modern life; a psycho-drama and collage of his thoughts, dreams and ideas and his flights of fancy. While outwardly heroic and romantic, his works frequently harbour subversive, often acerbic social commentary, and elements of self-examination and reinvention in the service of purging the angst and dilemma of constructing identity, both personal and national.
Barbara Dowse, Curator