A New Side to George Raftopoulos at Mclemoi Gallery in Sydney -
Blouin artinfo 2014
Sydney-based artist George Raftopoulos’s latest exhibition, “Beaux Monde,” which is currently on show at Mclemoi Gallery in Chippendale, includes a new series of large-scale, mixed-media works that represents an exciting change in direction for the artist.
Raftopoulos is best known for creating highly gestural and vividly colored, outsider-style paintings filled with strange creatures and distorted figures that draw inspiration from Greek mythology as well as the artist’s own personal history – a style the artist refers to as “mythological figurative abstraction.”
The new series features recycled imagery at its center, which the artist uses as a tool to allow the viewer easy access into what he describes as “his world.” Using found images printed onto canvas and Japanese linen as his starting point, Raftopoulos then reworks the images, adding multiple layers of meaning.
Raftopoulos says that enjoys this fact that these images are recognized and taken for granted; however he then “bastardizes” them to new heights, debasing myth. “Once printed I then give the imagery another generation or body by going back in and reworking the information and surface, layering the history of the work further,” he says.
The large-scale paintings started life as A4-size collages on paper until the artist’s ambitious nature took over and the desire for larger imagery became too strong to ignore, leading the artist to work with printed images. He describes the technical process of matching the right ink with the right surface as a time consuming but exciting science experiment.
The recycled imagery is drawn from a wide range of sources: some were sourced from books on Old Master artists found at op shops or old bookshops where they had been left to die; others are derived from old science textbooks.
With the work “Bitch on a Horse,” for example, Raftopoulos has reinvigorated Velazquez’s famous 1634 equestrian portrait of Queen Margaret of Austria, stripping away the fantasy to give it a more accessible story.
The images derived from old science textbooks reference the importance of bridging technology with the past, according to Raftopoulos. “I am fascinated with how the past people etc. remain the same yet technology is still powered by humans, he says.
In “I am Human,” the artist explains, “a child peers around the corner of a huge scientific valve jeering at its existence all the while the valve is telling its story also, proclaiming ‘I am Human’; it too contains history and a story which is why I have painted a human face on its front.”
Raftopoulos’s reinterpretation of historical imagery thrusts it into a modern, “present” context. “I feel the current work where I have fused historical recognizable imagery into my language is a natural progression for me,” says the artist.
“It had been quite a revelation for me as I have access to amazing plethora of existing imagery which allows me to comment upon it immediately!,” says Raftopoulos. “I now see Julian Schnabel doing similar works .... well guess what Schnabel, I did it first!!!”